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S. Korea to send $6.9 million in aid to the North

South Korea's unification minister Yu Woo-ik vowed to review sending humanitarian aid to North Korea through third channels.

Story highlights

  • The unification minister says he'd consider the move due to widespread malnutrition
  • The South stopped sending direct aid after the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island
  • More than 6 million people in North Korea need food aid, the U.N. says

South Korean officials said Tuesday the country has approved $6.94 million in aid to be sent to its neighbor through the World Health Organization.

The announcement follows a meeting last week between U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik, in which the latter vowed to actively review sending humanitarian aid to North Korea through third channels.

The move signals an attempt by South Korea to cool tensions with the North. But, said the unification ministry, Seoul has no plans of sending direct aid.

Yu came into office in September vowing to create dialog with North Korea with a "firm but flexible" approach.

The unification ministry says South Korea stopped sending direct aid to Pyongyang in November 2010 after it accused North Korea of shelling Yeonpyeong Island, killing four South Koreans.

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Seoul offered flood aid this year through the Red Cross but the aid was not delivered after North Korea failed to respond on whether they would accept supplies different from what they asked for.

The current move from Seoul comes weeks after a U.N. humanitarian aid official visited North Korea and urged the international community for increased support toward malnourished North Koreans.

More than 6 million people in the isolated state need food aid and one in three children are chronically malnourished, according to Valerie Amos, the U.N. under-secretary-general for Humanitarian affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

In the past, South Korea has sent aid through the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international agencies to the North.

The last time Seoul offered aid through such organizations was in 2009, the unification ministry said.