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S. Korea Allows More Humanitarian Aid to N. Korea amid Tension

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea has approved a new shipment of humanitarian aid to North Korea, an official said on June 24, amid persisting tension over the sinking of a South Korean warship in March.

   Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung told reporters that his government will allow a civilian relief group to send 400 million won (US$337,000) worth of anti-malaria aid to North Korea.

   South Korea has only allowed infant-related assistance since it slapped North Korea with a series of punitive measures last month for the deadly sinking of the Cheonan corvette in the Yellow Sea.

   South Korea says the ship was torpedoed by a North Korean submarine though the communist state strenuously denies any role.

   Chun said the latest batch of aid has been granted because any spread of malaria in the North has the potential to affect South Korean residents south of the border.

   The latest shipment, if carried out, would be the seventh case of aid to North Korea since South Korea condemned the North for the sinking, in which 46 sailors were killed.

   The relations between the countries are at one of the lowest points in decades, and North Korea has threatened war if it is punished or sanctioned for the sinking.

   South Korea has also banned trade with North Korea while planning to resume anti-Pyongyang broadcasts using loudspeakers along the heavily armed Demilitarized Zone.


Different Economic Paths Widen Two Koreas' Economic Gap: Data

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The economic gap between South and North Korea has been widening over the past six decades as the two opted for different economic paths in the process of rebuilding their war-ravaged societies, data showed on June 25.

   The gap is more apparent in income levels, overseas trade and industrial infrastructure, which underscore the markedly different living conditions for the people of the two divided nations.

   According to the data offered by the finance ministry and the statistics agency, South Korea's nominal gross national income (GNI) amounted to 1,068 trillion won (US$887.8 billion) last year, 37.3 times larger than the 28 trillion won tallied for the North.

   On a per-capita basis, South Korea's GNI was 17.9 times larger than that of the North.

   South Korea also outperformed the North in the volume of external trade. South Korea's total trade amounted to $686.6 billion last year, compared with $3.41 billion for the North, the data showed.

   The marked gap came mostly from the volume of exports. South Korean companies exported a total of $363.5 billion worth of products last year, 343 times higher than overseas shipments by their North Korean counterparts.

   Those numerical differences highlighted the South's faster economic growth over the North since the two opted for different development paths following the Korean War, which started exactly six decades ago today, experts said.

   The North started one step ahead of the South with better industrial infrastructure built by the Japanese during their 1910-45 colonial rule and relatively affluent natural resources. In 1959, the North's per-capita income was around $100, while the corresponding figure for the South stood at a mere $81.

   Things, however, began to reverse since the 1970s as the South started to push for export-oriented economic growth while the North kept its closed market system, failing to capitalize on its earlier lead, they said.

   South Korea is now one of the world's major countries in terms of economic size and it is set to host the Group of 20 summit later this year, showcasing its improved international status over the past decades, the experts noted.

   "Until the 1960s, statistics show that the North Korean people lived better than people in the South. But we have grown so fast over the past decades to become one of the world's major powers that now it seems meaningless to compare with the North," a government official said.