South Korea on Friday authorised a civilian NGO to contact the North to discuss resuming humanitarian aid and projects, the first example of new liberal president Moon Jae-In’s pursuit of dialogue with Pyongyang.
Unauthorised contacts with North Koreans or visits to the North are punishable by jail terms in the South. But the Unification Ministry gave the green light to a request by the Korean Sharing Movement.
“The government’s stance is that it should remain flexible in handling civilian exchanges such as humanitarian aid as long as they don’t compromise the international sanctions regime against the North,” ministry spokeswoman Lee Eugene told reporters. The decision comes even as tensions remain high after North Korea test-fired this month its longest-range ballistic missile yet. The two Koreas are technically still at war after the 1950-53 conflict ended only with a ceasefire instead of a peace treaty. The North has staged two atomic tests and dozens of missile tests since the beginning of last year in its quest to build a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the continental United States. The ministry’s Lee stressed that Seoul will remain firm in addressing the North’s nuclear and missile threats.