All municipalities designated as ‘independent operators’ of aid projects for N.K.: unification ministry

SEOUL-- All municipalities of South Korea will be allowed to pursue humanitarian aid projects for North Korea on their own, the unification ministry said Tuesday, as Seoul wants to increase cross-border exchanges despite stalled inter-Korean relations.

Under the revised rules on cross-border exchanges that went into effect Tuesday, a total of 243 municipal governments have been automatically designated as "independent operators" for projects of providing assistance to North Korea, according to the ministry.

Local governments previously had to work with private entities to provide aid to the North, but the government revised relevant rules in 2019 to allow them to engage in such activities on their own if they get state approval in advance.

Around a dozen municipalities have since applied for and received the status of independent operators.

Under the revised regulations, the municipalities will also be granted, if necessary, support from an inter-Korean cooperation fund that the ministry manages to bolster exchanges between the two Koreas, the ministry said.

The ministry expressed hope the latest move would bolster cooperation among the central government, municipalities and civilian organizations in efforts to provide assistance to North Korea.

The move comes amid stalled inter-Korean relations. North Korea has not responded to Seoul's offers for dialogue and cooperation in the humanitarian areas.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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