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Seoul mulls resuming sand imports from N. Korea: sources

All Headlines 11:31 October 22, 2009

By Tony Chang

SEOUL, Oct. 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is considering resuming imports of sand from North Korea, government sources here said Thursday, reflecting the thawing relationship between the two neighbors.

South Korea has suspended sand imports from North Korea since April, when the North test-fired a long-range rocket. Seoul had banned sand importers from traveling to the North.

South Korea first brought in North Korean sand for use at local construction sites in late 2002, as part of an inter-Korean accord signed by leaders of the two Koreas in 2000.

"The government is reviewing the resumption of imports of the North's sand, given strong requests from businesses and the overall state of current inter-Korean relations," an informed government official said, requesting to be unnamed.

Since North Korea's conciliatory gestures towards the South in August, Seoul has begun allowing limited travel to the North centered around humanitarian projects in the impoverished country.

The South Korean government is expected to decide soon whether to lift the travel ban on sand importers as well, according to officials.

Seoul reportedly placed the travel restriction on sand importers due to suspicions that payments for sand shipments were pocketed by military authorities in the North.


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