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S. Korea sets aside more than 540 bln won for humanitarian aid for N. Korea

All Headlines 11:57 January 11, 2012

SEOUL, Jan. 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has set aside more than 540 billion won (US$465 million) for humanitarian aid for North Korea this year, the Unification Ministry said Wednesday.

Most of the budget is earmarked for the South Korean government's possible rice and fertilizer aid to its impoverished northern neighbor. It is also designed to provide aid to the North in case of natural disasters, according to the ministry, which handled inter-Korean affairs.

Still, it remains unclear whether South Korea can give rice and fertilizer aid to North Korea amid no sign of ending the political impasse on the divided Korean Peninsula.

In November, Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik ruled out rice aid to the North unless Pyongyang admits it was behind two deadly provocations on the South in 2010. The North has refused to take responsibility for the attacks that killed 50 South Koreans.

South Korea suspended its annual rice aid in 2008 when conservative President Lee Myung-bak took office with a policy of linking assistance to progress in efforts to get North Korea to give up its nuclear programs.

Lee said last week he would leave open a "window of opportunity" in an attempt to improve the soured relations with North Korea.

Still, the North has vowed not to deal with Lee's government, citing what it claims as South Korea's hideous crimes following the death of leader Kim Jong-il.

Seoul did not send an official mourning delegation to Pyongyang, although it approved a condolence trip by private delegations led by two high-profile women who have ties with North Korea.

In a sign of soured ties, North Korea's propaganda Web site, Uriminzokkiri, denounced South Korea's unification minister by name for the first time since Yu's inauguration for seeking "collaboration" with foreign forces to confront the North.

It is not unusual for the North to criticize the South Korean president and the unification minister.

entropy@yna.co.kr
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