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S. Korean Aid Group Okayed to Send Aid Goods to N. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A South Korean aid group has been granted approval for its plan to send aid goods to North Korea, Seoul's ministry handing inter-Korean issues said on Nov. 2.

   The Unification Ministry said it gave approval on Oct. 30 for the Korea Association of People Share Love's plan to send 59 million won (US$54,068) worth of bread and baby food to the Sinuiju region.

   "The aid goods will be shipped to Sinuiju via Dandong, China within three months," a ministry official said.

   The shipment of goods and trips to the North require the ministry's approval, because the two countries remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.

   A number of private aid groups have shipped aid goods to the North, following last summer's typhoons that heavily hit the country.


Families to Call for Repatriation of 11 S. Koreans abducted by North

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Families of 11 South Korean citizens abducted by North Korea in 1969 plan to visit the North's representatives to the United Nations in Switzerland to raise pressure on the country to repatriate the abductees, a representative for the families said on Nov. 5.

   The 11 were aboard a Korean Air service hijacked by the North.

   The group representative said family members will fly to Geneva on Nov. 5 for a seven-day trip aimed at pressing the North to repatriate the 11, including the delivery of a letter to the North's representatives calling for the repatriation.

   "On Nov. 8, we will try delivering the letter to the North Korean representatives," said Hwang In-cheol, who leads the families of the abductees.
The group will also visit the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as part of efforts to secure international support for the repatriation project, Hwang said.

   Their trip also includes giving testimony at a Japan-organized symposium on abductees by the North, and a meeting with David Alton, a member of the British Parliament active in North Korean matters, he said.

   A Korean Air domestic flight heading to Gimpo was hijacked on Dec. 11, 1969, by an agent from the North posing as a local passenger. Of the four crew members and 46 passengers aboard, 39 were sent back 66 days later, but the crew members and seven passengers were detained in the North.

   In response to the South Korean government's call to verify the survival of the 11 abductees in 2006, the North said that was impossible.

   Many South Koreans and Japaneses are believed to have been abducted and to remain confined in the North after the 1950-53 Korean War left the Korean Peninsula divided.

   The abductions are believed to have been plotted as part the North's intelligence activities, including spy training, as well as a political campaign against the South and Japan.


Lee Calls for Fending off N.K.'s Attempt to Affect Presidential Poll

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- President Lee Myung-bak instructed the Cabinet on Nov. 6 to ensure South Korea is thoroughly prepared not only for armed provocations by North Korea, but also any attempts by Pyongyang to affect next month's presidential election.

   North Korea is one of the most divisive issues in South Korean society, with liberals calling for greater reconciliation efforts and conservatives calling for stands on principle, and Pyongyang often attempts to influence elections in the South by criticizing or praising candidates, mainly over their stances on the socialist nation.

   In the run-up to the Dec. 19 poll, Pyongyang has steeped up its denunciation of Seoul's conservative ruling party and presidential contender. On Nov. 3, the North denounced South Korea's ruling Saenuri Party as a "disaster" that brews "all sources of misfortune" for Koreans.

   "We cannot be inattentive about economic and security issues even for a single day until the end of my term," Lee was quoted as saying during a Cabinet meeting. "In the case of security, we have to be thoroughly prepared not only for armed provocations by the North, but also for its attempts to intervene in our presidential election."

   Officials also briefed Lee at the meeting on a recent finding that "unproven parts" were used in nuclear reactors at power plants, as well as possible electricity shortages that may occur after two reactors have been shut down to have such parts replaced.

   Lee told officials to provide the public with accurate information about the situation so the people do not worry too much, presidential spokesman Park Jeong-ha said.

   Despite wide use of such parts in at least two nuclear reactors, officials have stressed there is no threat of a radiation leak as the untested parts are "ordinary" parts, such as fuses and power switches, which are unrelated to the reactor itself.


Seoul Seeking to Build 2 More Day Care Centers in Kaesong Complex

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The South Korean government is seeking to build two more day care centers in the Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea as part of its humanitarian efforts in their joint economic zone, the Seoul ministry handling inter-Korean issues said on Nov. 7.

   The South Korean government "plans to hold a discussion with the North over the plan to build two nurseries accommodating 600 infants in the Kaesong Industrial Complex," an official at the Unification Ministry said.

   Before the discussion with the North, the ministry must secure funds from the national budget earmarked for promoting exchanges with the North, the official said.

   Within the joint economic zone, Seoul runs one day care center that oversees the care of 600 North Korean infants under the age of 1. About 50 North Korean nannies are employed there.

   The latest humanitarian plan comes amid strained inter-Korean relations that have hit their worst point in many decades.

   The May 24 sanctions adopted in 2010 following the North's deadly sinking of a South Korean Navy vessel Cheonan that year brought trades and exchanges between the two Koreas almost to a halt.

   Despite the sanctions, Seoul has remained willing to assist the North in the humanitarian sector.

   Seoul offered to provide flour and medicine to the North after heavy typhoons devastated the communist country last summer, but the North refused to accept the aid in September.