Red Cross In S. Korea Says North Rejects Aid

By Kwang Tae Kim
Associated Press
Thursday, August 3, 2006

SEOUL, Aug. 2 -- The South Korean Red Cross said Wednesday that its North Korean counterpart had rejected an offer of aid for flood victims.

North Korea "expressed thanks for Seoul's offer" but said "it will handle the recovery efforts from recent floods by itself," a senior North Korean Red Cross official said, according to the South Korean Red Cross.

Floods caused by heavy rains in mid-July killed at least 154 North Koreans and left more than 127 missing, according to the United Nations. North Korea's official media have said the disaster caused hundreds of deaths and cut off roads, bridges, railroads and communications.

However, the Good Friends group, a Seoul-based aid organization for North Korean refugees, said in a statement Wednesday that about 10,000 people were dead or missing and 1.5 million were left homeless by the floods.

The project coordinator for Good Friends, Lee Seung Yong, declined to identify sources for the information, but previous reports of activities in North Korea from the group have since been confirmed.

North Korea has relied on foreign donations of food since the 1990s, when natural disasters and decades of mismanagement led to the deaths of as many as 2 million people.

South Korea, a key provider of rice and fertilizer to the North, recently suspended aid shipments to protest the county's refusal to discuss its missile launches in early July. The tests drew international condemnation and raised regional tensions.

North Korea protested the South's decision and cut off government-level exchanges. But civilian-level exchanges remain intact, leading the North to seek civilian assistance from the South for flood victims while rejecting the offer of aid from the government-run Red Cross.

The South's Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation, which is composed of civic groups and ruling Uri Party members and is partly funded by the government, said it would send aid to the North by next weekend. It said the aid would probably be accepted but declined to give details.

JTS Korea, a private relief agency based in Seoul, also said Tuesday that it would ship emergency goods to the North. The agency's spokeswoman, Hyun Hee Ryun, said North Korea had specified what kind of supplies it needed, suggesting that the aid would be accepted.

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