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S. Korean trade union federation hoping to send rice to flood-hit N. Korea

All Headlines 11:43 September 15, 2010

SEOUL, Sept. 15 (Yonhap) -- An umbrella trade union said Wednesday it seeks to send about 100 tons of rice, possibly by land, to North Korea to help the flood-hit nation.

The Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU), which claims up to 900,000 members across the country, said it is in talks with its North Korean counterpart to determine the exact delivery route and size of the aid.

The North's General Federation of Trade Unions of Korea said in a message to the FKTU last week that it had "no other opinion" on the FKTU's assistance offer.

"We would like to use an overland route to Kaesong, due to the high transport costs, but we will have to wait for the North's response to the message we sent yesterday detailing the specifics of our plan," an FKTU official said, referring to the North Korean city bordering the South.

The move comes after Seoul's Red Cross announced Monday that it would provide the North with rice and cement worth 10 billion won (US$8.6 million), the latest sign of tensions easing across the border after Seoul blamed Pyongyang for a warship sinking in March that killed 46 sailors. Other relief groups, including the Korea Sharing Movement and the Join Together Society, pledged to deliver flour this week.

Television footage released by Pyongyang has shown crop fields, houses and public buildings flooded by heavy rains that swept across the North's border area with China last month. The floods killed 14 people, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Severe deforestation and a lack of investment in disaster control have made the impoverished nation exceptionally vulnerable to natural disasters.

The FKTU said it will be including in its aid package around 5 tons of rice that it bought through fundraising in 2008. The rice was stored away at the time as the government halted all rice aid amid political tensions with its communist neighbor.

hague@yna.co.kr
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