The Republic of Korea (RoK) says it will resume providing humanitarian assistance to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) through the United Nations after a one-and-a-half-year freeze.
A Unification Ministry official said on November 8 the government will release almost US$7 million in funding that was allocated to the World Health Organization for assistance to the DPRK in 2009. The RoK froze the aid after blaming the DPRK for the fatal sinking of the warship Cheonan in March 2010.
The aid is expected to go mainly for high-nutrition foods, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment. Officials said the decision is in line with the RoK's policy of trying to help children and other highly vulnerable people in the DPRK.
The money to be released is part of a US$13.2 million aid package that was donated to the WHO for use in the DPRK in 2009.
The decision is the latest sign of gradually improving relations between the two Koreas after months of tension caused by the Cheonan sinking and a DPRK’s artillery attack on the RoK in November last year.
Senior officials of the two countries have met twice since July to discuss terms for a resumption of six-party talks on the DPRK's nuclear programs. The RoK has also begun allowing small amounts of private humanitarian aid to go to the DPRK.
Preliminary negotiations are under way for the construction of a natural gas pipeline from Russia through the DPRK to the RoK that would be worth billions of dollars a year to both Koreas.