SEOUL, Oct. 7 (Yonhap) -- The unification ministry said Thursday that it has approved three requests by civilian organizations to provide humanitarian assistance to North Korea, which are meant to help bolster cross-border cooperation and exchanges.
The decision was announced amid cautious optimism about the resumption of dialogue created after North Korea restored all communication lines with South Korea early this week following about two months of suspension attributable to Pyongyang's protest over a joint military exercise by the South and the United States.
"The unification ministry approved civilian organizations' three requests to ship humanitarian materials into the North," a ministry official said. "Our stance remains unchanged that we will continue to seek cooperation in humanitarian areas, including those in urgent need of medical and nutritional materials for children, pregnant and other at-risk citizens in the North."
The official declined to identify the organizations, just saying that those materials to be shipped into the North are related to public health in the North and all necessary costs will be funded by the organizations themselves.
In late July, the ministry allowed civilian groups to pursue humanitarian assistance to North Korea following about a 10-month hiatus caused by the North's killing of a South Korean fisheries official near the inter-Korean sea border in September last year.
South Korea has stated that inter-Korean cooperation in the humanitarian field should go on regardless of political and military situations on the peninsula. Last month, the ministry decided to provide up to 10 billion won (US$8.5 million) to help civilian organizations carry out aid projects for North Korean people.
North Korea has tightened its border controls to stave off a coronavirus outbreak on its soil since early last year. But some signs have been detected that it might be easing the restrictions, with its trade with China on a marked rise in recent months.
The World Health Organization earlier reported that it has begun the shipment of COVID-19 medical supplies to the North through the Chinese port of Dalian.
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