South korea approves $8m aid package for the North

South Korean President Moon Jae-in addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York U.S

The aid package did not include cash payments, the ministry said, and there was "realistically no possibility" that it could be of any use to the North Korean military.

The decision is a break with the hard-line policy on aid, pursued by Seoul since the start of past year.

"Through this support, we expect that the humanitarian situation of vulnerable groups in North Korea will be improved by preventing diseases of North Korean children, treating malnourished children, and strengthening nutrition of pregnant women".

Among the total, US$4.5 million would be provided for the WFP project, while the remaining US$3.5 million was allotted to the UNICEF project.

But is it easy to get aid to the people who need it most?

The aid decision was made after a meeting of government officials chaired by Unification Minister Cho Myong-gyon.

The Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, reportedly asked the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, to reconsider the timing of the aid package in a recent telephone call.

Meanwhile, Karin Hulshof, regional director for East Asia and the Pacific at UNICEF released a statement on Thursday stressing the urgency of resolving the hunger issues and other "real challenges" North Korean children face daily.

At home, a Gallup poll in August found that more than half of South Koreans think aid to the North should be suspended if it doesn't give up its nuclear weapons, while opposition conservative parties have blasted Moon's aid decision.

The time frame and the specifics of the project will be decided in consideration of the overall situation including the tone of inter-Korean relations.

It triggered a new UN Security Council resolution toughening sanctions on the North Korea.

Instead, the government had permitted civic groups to provide aid to the North and helped North Koreans indirectly via global organizations. The World Health Organization estimates the mortality rate among North Korean children aged five and under at 25 per 1,000, compared with three in every 1,000 in South Korea.

This image captured from footage provided by the World Food Program on September 13, 2011, shows a North Korean child suffering from malnutrition. Qatar and Kuwait, key United States allies, said yesterday (Sept. 19) they would stop issuing visas for North Korean laborers, curtailing another source of hard cash for Pyongyang.



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