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South Korea’s Fertilizer Aid Heading to the North

A South Korean non-profit organization provided fertilizer and other assistance to North Korea to help its neighbor build a greenhouse project. Representatives from Ace Gyeongam, the foundation run by bed maker Ace, crossed the border between South and North Koreas yesterday (27 October), to deliver goods to run greenhouses in Sariwon, which is about 70 kilometers southeast of Pyongyang. It was their first visit in half a year. The Unification Ministry approved the visit to the North confirming that “most of the materials are greenhouse-related ones. The portion of fertilizer is small”.

Earlier in April, Ace Gyeongam sent to the North materials worth 200 million won (US$177,120) including fertilizer, vinyl, pipes and other supplies to build greenhouses. The April shipping was approved by the government of the South for the first time since it introduced sanctions on North Korea over the ROKS Cheonan sinking in 2010, which was probably caused by a North Korean torpedo fired by a midget submarine. Ace Gyeongam already provided assistance to set up 50 greenhouses on farms in 2009 and its aim is to support up to 300 units in the future.

During a period of warming ties between both countries that started in 2000, South Korea provided as much as 350,000 tons of fertilizer to the North every year as well as up to 500,000 tons of rice. This reflected the values of the liberal government that was in power at the time. However, the election of a conservative leader in the South in 2008 brought about a sharp decline in aid to the North. South Korea has generally encouraged more non-profit organizations and civilian groups to increase humanitarian assistance to its impoverished neighbor. Moreover, the South and the North reached an agreement in August to promote more exchanges at the non-governmental level as well as to de-escalate military tensions.

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