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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 120 (August 19, 2010)

South Koreans Cross into North Korea to Deliver Anti-malaria Aid

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A group of five South Koreans crossed the heavily armed border into North Korea on Aug. 17, delivering 400 million won (US$340,000) worth of anti-malaria aid despite tension between the divided states.

   The crossing marked the first South Korean civilian visit to the socialist state since Seoul banned trips to North Korea three months ago in protest over the sinking of a South Korean warship in March near their Yellow Sea border.

   A doctor and four others, including two drivers, traveled to the North Korean border city of Kaesong on the morning of Aug. 17, Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung told reporters. The doctor was needed to explain to North Korean authorities how to use the aid kits, Chun said earlier this week.

   Malaria is a persistent problem along the border areas. More than 360 South Koreans living south of the border reported infections this year, according to the government of Gyeonggi Province.

   The Unification Ministry said the aid to North Korea, which was donated by a South Korean relief group, would help alleviate the spread of malaria across the border and should be seen as a humanitarian program.

   South Korea has only allowed a handful of infant-related humanitarian shipments to the North since a multinational probe in May found Pyongyang responsible for the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan.

   Forty-six South Korean sailors died in the sinking, and the North denies any involvement in the attack. Tension is running high between the countries as North Korea has threatened war in response to South Korean military drills held in protest of the sinking.