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S. Korea reviewing whether to OK TB medication aid to N. Korea

All Headlines 15:34 March 10, 2016

SEOUL, March 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said Thursday it is reviewing whether to approve a charity group's request to send tuberculosis medication to North Korea amid its latest move to slap tighter sanctions on the North.

The EugeneBell Foundation Korea, the South Korean unit of the EugeneBell Foundation, has requested the Unification Ministry to approve its plan to ship medication to the impoverished nation. It said lives of some 1,500 patients in North Korea are at risk due to a lack of medical aid.

On Tuesday, Seoul unveiled its unilateral sanctions against North Korea to punish the North for its latest nuclear test and long-range rocket launch.

The government has suspended civilian inter-Korean exchanges and South Koreans' visits to North Korea since Pyongyang's fourth nuke test on Jan. 6.

The ministry handling inter-Korean affairs said it is reviewing the group's request.

"The government is studying whether to approve it," said a ministry official, asking not to be named. "(If the government gives it a green light), several South Koreans will be allowed to visit North Korea."

If the government were to give permission, it would mark the first time that Seoul allows a civic group to extend exchanges with North Korea since the latest nuke test.

The ministry said Wednesday that there is no change in its stance, and it will continue to allow civic groups to offer humanitarian assistance to the underprivileged in North Korea.

"But we will take a cautious approach in deciding the timing and size of the assistance by taking various factors into consideration," Jeong Joon-hee, a ministry spokesman, told reporters.

The foundation has long provided medical humanitarian assistance to North Korea, especially for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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