DATE=7/7/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=NORTH KOREA / ECONOMIC AID (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-264158 BYLINE=ALISHA RYU DATELINE=HONG KONG CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: South Korea says it is sending much more aid to poverty-stricken North Korea this year than it did last year. V-O-A's Alisha Ryu reports that South Korea has good reasons for wanting to increase donations. TEXT: Seoul's Unification Ministry says South Korea's economic aid to North Korea in the first half of this year totaled more than 67-million dollars - a 48 percent increase from the same period last year. Government contributions, mainly in the form of fertilizer and medical supplies, accounted for 85 percent of the total amount sent. But the biggest jump in donations came from private citizens who contributed almost 10-million dollars worth of goods, reflecting an increase of 134 percent from last year's levels. Years of political and economic isolation have left the communist North one of the most impoverished nations in the world. Floods and drought in recent years crippled food production and the resulting famine is estimated to have killed as many as two- million people since 1995. The government in Seoul says the increasing aid reflects the easing of tensions on the peninsula, particularly after the leaders of the two Koreas held their first successful summit last month. They say the much more affluent South is mobilizing out of concern for the needs of a neighbor who shares cultural, linguistic, and family ties with the South. But Korea expert David O'Rear believes the South is also motivated by self-interest. /// O'REAR ACT /// Think of it as a very large credit card debt. If you pay it off this week instead of next year, you save a lot of money. So, whatever assistance South Korea can give North Korea now is less (than) what it will have to pay in the future in the event that there is unification. /// END ACT /// South Korea is currently the second biggest donor to North Korea after the United States. The two Koreas, however, still remain technically at war since the Korean War ended in 1953 in an armed truce, without a peace treaty. (Signed) NEB/HK/AR/JO/JP 07-Jul-2000 06:52 AM EDT (07-Jul-2000 1052 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .
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