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December 17, 2013

S. Korea OKs civilian humanitarian aid to N. Korea

A view of North Korea from  an observation deck in Incheon, South Korea. (Yonhap)

A view of North Korea from an observation deck in Incheon, South Korea, on December 17, 2013. (Yonhap)

(Yonhap) — South Korea on Tuesday approved private groups’ shipping of humanitarian aid to North Korea aimed at helping alleviate the plight of the people in the impoverished country.

The two local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in South Korea — the International Love Foundation and the Okedongmu Children in Korea — were allowed to send basic goods for children in the communist country, according the Ministry of Unification. They plan to send such items as powered milk and medicines to orphanages and medical clinics for children in the North’s cities of Pyongyang and Wonsan, with the shipment schedule yet to be confirmed, it added.

The approval comes amid signs of renewed tensions on the Korean Peninsula, as North Korea may experience political upheaval following the execution of leader Kim Jong-un’s powerful uncle Jang Song-thaek last week. The brutal execution of Jang, long considered the second most powerful man in the North, has sparked fears of the North’s internal instability and concerns of its possible military provocations.

The planned aid brought the total amount of assistance to the North by private organizations here under the President Park Geun-hye administration, which took office in late February, to 6.33 billion won (US$6.02 million), according to ministry data.

Despite cross-border tensions and punitive sanctions imposed by the United Nations, the South Korean government has allowed such assistance on humanitarian grounds. “We’ve been reviewing the same request from several other local NGOs for shipment approval,” a ministry official said.