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Hopefully Flood Recovery Aid Will Open Communications between North and South Korea
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A couple of days ago, North Korea notified our government that they will accept our offer for flood recovery aid. North Korea also asked for the specific items and volume (that the Korean government can provide), when they announced their position through the Red Cross at Panmunjeom.

This is a significant change in North Korea. Last June, North Korea declared that it would not associate with the South Korean government hindering any developments in inter-Korean relations.

North Korea's positive response to the South's offer shows how devastating the damages that North Korea suffered were due to torrential downpours and typhoons. For the South, this is an opportunity to provide humanitarian aid as well as one to improve North-South relations, which have been locked in a stalemate.

However, rather than getting our hopes up too rashly at the possibility of such an important opportunity, the government should maintain a level attitude to accurately manage the situation. When North Korea accepted the South's offer, they emphasized that what happened last year should not be repeated.

This refers to the cancelation of flood aid to the North last year. At the time, the government prepared to provide 5 billion won of aid to the North including nourishing food for infants and toddlers and instant noodles, but when the South could not accommodate the North's request for food, cement, and equipment for damage repairs, North Korea remained unresponsive, and the aid never came through.

There's no guarantee that this kind of incident won't happen again. To avoid such a situation, North and South Korea both must show some sincerity. We also suggest that the governments look at the broader picture and maintain a forward-looking perspective.

One government official called the current situation on flood aid "a complicated equation." It means that there are factors in the government's flood aid that are as complex as those in a jigsaw puzzle.

For instance, providing flour doesn't seem to be such a big issue. However, if North Korea is not satisfied with this and asks for rice, cement and heavy equipment, a strategic judgment becomes necessary.

We have already sent rice and cement to the North in 2010 as flood aid. However, the problem is that the current government classifies the materials and equipment North Korea needs for emergency repairs as strategic materials.

We know from experience that these problems can act as stumbling blocks anytime in specifying the details of aid to North Korea. We have often seen inter-Korean relations collapse, with North Korea making an unusual request, and South Korea refusing to accept. To break away from this cycle, the North and the South both have to change.

Things look bright because since Kim Jong-un came to power, North Korea is showing signs of change, such as their economic reforms. Fortunately, there are also forward-looking signs detected in South Korea. Ryu Woo-ik, the Minister of Unification, mentioned in a meeting a few days ago, "The offer for flood aid to North Korea was made unconditionally."

An official from the Ministry of Unification stated on the problem of monitoring the distribution of aid items, "Monitoring is not a condition for the aid, but rather a way to provide aid efficiently." Most seem to agree that we should aim at making things work when it comes to the flood aid to North Korea.

We hope that the government will use the flood aid as an opportunity to improve relations with North Korea and create an environment for inter-Korean talks.

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