South Korea Authorizes Private Shipment of Flour to North

Posted July 25th, 2011 at 1:40 am (UTC-5)
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South Korea said Monday it has authorized private relief groups to ship 300 tons of flour as food aid for North Korea.

The announcement follows weekend talks between the two Koreas in Indonesia and marks the first time Seoul has allowed flour to be shipped to the North since an attack on a South Korean island last year. However, the Unification Ministry said there still are no plans to send government food aid to the North.

South Korea has permitted private groups to send other forms of food aid to the North since November, when a North Korean artillery attack killed four people on Yeonpyeong Island, but has barred flour shipments for fear they would be diverted to high officials or the military.

The aid approved Monday will go to a nursery, a children's hospital and a kindergarten.

The United Nations says up to one quarter of North Korea's population is in urgent need of food aid. However, some South Korean officials believe the North is exaggerating its problems in order to stockpile food for planned celebrations next year.

The North and South Korean foreign ministers met for the first time in three years Saturday on the sidelines of a regional conference in Bali, Indonesia. A day earlier, nuclear envoys for the two Koreas met for the first time since six-party nuclear talks collapsed in December of 2008.

Seoul's chief nuclear negotiator Wi Sung-lac said his meeting with North Korea's nuclear envoy Ri Yong Ho was “very constructive.”