South Korean Groups Sent Truckloads of Flour Into North

Posted July 26th, 2011 at 10:30 am (UTC-5)
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Members of a South Korean relief group crossed into North Korea Tuesday with 12 trucks full of flour, marking the first aid of its kind since a North Korean attack last year.

The convoy with 300 tons of flour rumbled across the border Tuesday in the border city of Paju. The Reverend In Myung-jin, head of the Korea Sharing Movement, told VOA the flour will feed 22,000 children at a nursery, a children's hospital and a kindergarten.

South Korea has allowed limited food aid to reach the North, but has not allowed flour to be shipped since an artillery attack on a South Korean island in November. Officials say they worry the flour could be diverted to high-ranking officials or the military.

The shipment is the latest sign of easing relations between North and South Korea after months of tension sparked by the North's attack on Yeonpyeong Island, which killed four people. Senior officials of the two governments met on the weekend in Indonesia for their first talks since the attack.

Private relief groups say they plan to send 2,200 more tons of flour to the North, where the United Nations says about 6 million people, a quarter of the population, urgently need food aid.

But South Korea says it will not resume large official shipments of food aid, such as were routinely sent to the North before 2008. Some officials suspect the North is exaggerating its food needs to stockpile supplies for major celebrations next year marking the hundredth anniversary of the birth of the country's first leader.