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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 225 (August 30, 2012)

South Korea's Group Set to Send Flood Aid to North Korea

PAJU, South Korea (Yonhap) -- A non-governmental South Korean aid group will deliver food and other aid goods to flood-stricken North Korea as early as next week, the group said on Aug. 24 after returning from a trip to the North.

   In the first North Korean trip by a South Korean entity following recent flood damage in the North, four officials of the Korea NGO Council for Cooperation with North Korea held a relief aid discussion in Kaesong with their counterparts from the National Reconciliation Council, North Korea's organization for promoting friendship with the South, the group said.

   The council represents 51 South Korean private aid groups for North Korea.

   "I think aid goods could be delivered to the North at the earliest possible time if the (Seoul) government is cooperative," said the group's vice president Lee Yun-sang after returning from the trip. "Recent floods left the entire region of North and South Hwanghae provinces severely damaged," Lee said referring to southern part of the North.

   Cross-border shipments or travels need the Unification Ministry's approval. The ministry also regulates what kinds of items are shipped to the North.

   The group may offer bags of flour instead of rice, he said.

   Medicine and other relief goods will also be shipped to the North in the planned assistance, he said.

   The announcement came after Lee and three other officials of the aid group crossed the border in the morning to pay the one-day visit to discuss its relief assistance plan with the North.

   "Both the South and North sides took the discussion seriously," he said, adding the North's group expressed its firm willingness to resume aid exchanges with non-governmental groups in the South.

   North Korea has said devastating floods this summer killed more than a hundred of its people and severely damaged public facilities and farmland.

   The United Nations and other countries channeled funds and other relief goods to the North as part of their humanitarian assistance, but South Korea has remained mum so far due mainly to a chill in the South-North relations.

   The latest trip helped fuel speculation over whether the Seoul government will decide to take action about the North's flood damage despite the restrained inter-Korean relations.


Body of N. Korean Soldier Drifted to S. Korea in Floods

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The body of a North Korean soldier floated down a river into South Korea after recent flooding, a military official in the South said on Aug. 26.

   The body was found on Aug. 23 in the Hantan River, about 100 kilometers northeast of Seoul, and was handed over to the United Nations Command (UNC) for transfer to the North, the official said, requesting anonymity.

   "The body is thought to have floated here due to recent heavy rains and flooding," the officer said.

   Heavy downpours swept through large parts of the socialist country between late June and the end of July, resulting in 169 deaths and 400 people missing, according to the North's state media.

   "The UNC will notify the North of such facts and take the necessary steps to repatriate the body to the North, which could take longer than 10 days if past cases are any guide," the official said, without elaborating on a detailed schedule or information on the deceased.

   The UNC, responsible for monitoring an armistice agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War, is led by the top U.S. commander in South Korea. The U.S. has some 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the Korean War.

   In 2010, the UNC repatriated the bodies of two North Korean soldiers apparently killed in flooding, which floated down the Imjin river, about 60 kilometers northeast of Seoul, into South Korea.


Seoul Urges N. Korea to Stop Unexpectedly Releasing Dam Water

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Aug. 27 warned North Korea against an unnotified massive release of water from its border-area dam following recent torrential rain in the North.

   The Unification Ministry, which handles relations with the North, said a letter was sent to Pyongyang earlier in the day to urge the North to give prior notice before discharging water from Hwanggang Dam on the Imjin River near the border.

   In the letter, Seoul pointed out the North's repeated unannounced water discharges detected since Aug. 17 when the country was hit by heavy downpours, the ministry said.

   In October, 2009, the North agreed to issue prior notice before releasing water from the dam, a month after six South Koreans were killed in a flash flood caused by the North discharging water unexpectedly.