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(LEAD) Int'l Red Cross hopes for 'next-phase' cooperation with S. Korea on humanitarian challenges

All News 18:14 June 05, 2018

(ATTN: UPDATES with meeting with foreign minister in last 4 paras)

SEOUL, June 5 (Yonhap) -- The head of an international Red Cross organization said Tuesday that he wishes to have "next-phase" cooperation with South Korea as improving inter-Korean relations draw attention to humanitarian issues in North Korea.

Peter Maurer, the head of the Switzerland-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), added that he wants to closely work with South Korea to address humanitarian issues caused by the 1950-53 Korean War.

"I look forward to take this opportunity, given the big developments in the region, to take stock on where we are and to see together how the next phase of our cooperation can look like," he said at the start of a meeting with South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon in Seoul.

"We are also happy to work with you through the Red Cross society on some of the challenges of humanitarian consequences," he added.

Maurer said that the declaration adopted by the leaders of the two Koreas after their historic April summit contained humanitarian elements which he said the ICRC is interested in discussing with South Korea.

He didn't specify issues that the two sides could cooperate on. He said in an interview with Yonhap on Monday that the ICRC is ready to provide support for reunions of families separated by the Korean War and hopes to increase help with health, water and sanitation in the North.

The two Koreas recently agreed to hold a Red Cross meeting later this month to arrange a reunion of separated families expected to take place in mid-August.

Cho said that the Seoul government sees international cooperation as the top priority in carrying out the summit agreement, and he expressed hope for stepped-up collaboration with the ICRC going forward.

The ICRC chief also met with Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha later in the day.

He expressed gratitude for Seoul's continued expansion of contributions, saying he expects it to join the organization's Donor Support Group (DSG) someday, Kang's ministry said.

It's a privileged platform for exchange on key ICRC policies and programming. A member country should contribute a minimum of 10 million Swiss francs (CHF) in cash per year.

The minister said the government will keep playing a key role in humanitarian assistance worldwide.


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