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S. Korea to provide up to 10 bln won for civilian aid projects for N. Korea

All News 09:30 September 24, 2021

By Koh Byung-joon

SEOUL, Sept. 24 (Yonhap) -- South Korea decided Friday to provide up to 10 billion won (US$8.5 million) to help civilian organizations carry out aid projects for North Korean people facing urgent humanitarian needs amid the global coronavirus pandemic, the unification ministry said.

Under the decision approved by a civilian-government committee on inter-Korean exchanges, up to 500 million won can be provided to a single project designed to improve nutrition and health conditions for North Korean citizens, according to the ministry.

Previously, the government provided financial support for such humanitarian projects in a 50-50 matching fund scheme, in which it covered up to half of the spending necessary to purchase materials and transport them into the reclusive North.

"The government intends to complement the financial limits of civilian organizations committed to and capable of carrying out inter-Korean cooperation projects," the ministry said. "We hope that it will lead to the improvement in the quality of life of North Korean citizens."

Applicants must first win consent from the North on their projects before asking for government support.

The decision came weeks after the government designated all municipalities as "independent players" allowed to pursue humanitarian aid projects for North Korea on their own, a move intended to bolster cross-border assistance efforts despite stalled inter-Korean relations.

It is still unclear how much of the assigned money will be utilized given that North Korea remains unresponsive to Seoul's repeated calls for dialogue on cooperation in the humanitarian area.

North Korean is known for chronic food shortages that have been apparently aggravated in recent years due to typhoons, flooding and other abnormal weather conditions.

Though North Korea claims to be coronavirus-free, its tight border controls put in place to stave off the global pandemic are believed to be taking a toll on food supplies by making it hard to import grains and necessary materials for its citizens.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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