The ‘smart aid’ may include items only for infants and toddlers
By Hwang Joon-bum
Humanitarian aid to North Korea, which was completely suspended following North Korea‘s shelling of Yeongpyeong Island on Nov. 23 of last year, will be partially restarted around April. The Lee Myung-bak administration has initially decided to permit once again private aid to the most vulnerable in North Korea, including infants and toddlers.
“The administration has decided to resume from April aid to North Korea from private groups, which had been suspended following the Yeongpyeong Island shelling,” said a high-ranking government official on Tuesday. “It plans to permit items that can be used only by infants and toddlers that cannot be used by the military.”
The official added, “Government aid is possible only if Red Cross talks restart, and with such talks currently unlikely, the plan is to permit private NGOs to send aid.”
Cheong Wa Dae (the presidential office in South Korea or Blue House) Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Tae-hyo, too, said at a seminar hosted by the National Assembly’s Northeast Asia Peace and Security Forum, “The administration is first pushing ‘smart aid’ that directly targets North Korean children and vulnerable classes from a humanitarian point of view.”
“‘Smart aid’ means items that can be used only by North Korea’s vulnerable classes and children, and we will first permit items such as baby food and nutritional supplements for children,” said a key Cheong Wa Dae official. “Such aid goes to specific recipients even if it is not monitored well.”
In consideration of these facts, it appears the aid that will first be allowed to resume in nutritional supplements for children and basic medical supplies from private groups, which the government announced on Dec. 28, 2009 that it would subsidize with 3.5 billion Won ($3.1 million) from a fund for inter-Korean economic cooperation. The administration will also reportedly permit the Korea NGO Council for Cooperation with North Korea to send children’s underwear.
The Lee administration’s decision to partially restart aid to North Korea is believed to be due to moves by the international community, including the United States, to resume food aid to North Korea and continuous protests from local religious and private groups demanding the government permit humanitarian aid.
“Since even religious leaders are continuing to call for permitting humanitarian aid, the government will allow aid starting in January, after the one year anniversary of the sinking of the Cheonan,” said one Cheong Wa Dae official.
The Lee administration will continue to rule out food aid for the time being, however. Moreover, with the government continuing to restrict private aid if it is not for children or the most vulnerable in North Korean society, officials will find it difficult to quell criticism from private groups that the decision permits no more than a trickle for which the government expects much praise for little work.
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