September 22, 2017 12:30
The government on Thursday approved a proposal to give US$8 million in aid to North Korean mothers and children through international organizations.
But it did not set a date for the payment. "The government will decide on the timing after watching the development of the inter-Korean situation and taking other factors into account," the Unification Ministry said in a statement.
Seoul has been severely criticized over the timing of the proposal amid international efforts to bring the North to heel after its latest nuclear test.
The plan is to give $4.5 million to a nutrition program operated by the World Food Programme and $3.5 million to a nutrition and vaccine program by the UN Children's Fund.
Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said separating sanctions from humanitarian assistance to ordinary North Koreans is a "universal value" shared by the international community.
Experts have chimed in with their concerns. Kim Jin-moo at Sookmyung Women's University said, "Humanitarian aid sent to North Korea simply end up in the hands of high-ranking officials and only strengthens the tyrannical regime. It ends up looking like we're supporting Kim Jong-un's nuclear weapons development."
The government argues that food supplements and vaccines distributed by global aid organizations cannot easily be converted into cash for the North's weapons or diverted to the military.
But Kim Tae-hyo at Sungkyunkwan University said in a recent column in the Chosun Ilbo, "North Korea's economic demise stems from distorted internal distribution rather than a lack of external support. The food shortage would have been resolved a long time ago if it made half the effort that goes into developing missiles."
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