06/09/2006, 00.00
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South Korean Caritas new channel of Catholic aid to north

The agreement "implies that North Korea acknowledges the work of the South Korean section as the only channel of aid from Catholics from all over the world."

Seoul (AsiaNews/CBCK) – The South Korean Caritas has become the official channel for humanitarian aid donated by the international Caritas for people north of the border.

After a five-day visit to North Korea, from 29 May, Fr Lazzaro You Heung-sik, President of the bishops' aid committee, said: "On behalf of the Caritas Internationalis, we discussed the project of development and cooperation with Kim Seong-il, Vice-Chairman of the National Economic Cooperation Committee of North Korea, who accepted our direct commitment. We also exchanged a letter of intent."

According to this letter, the South Korean Caritas will assume full responsibility for international aid from 2007 onwards;until then, this work will be undertaken by the Hong Kong section, which "owns" the responsibility.

The agreement stipulates that projects proposed by Caritas Internationalis will be discussed by Koreans from both countries in the offices of the Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation Committee in Kaeseong, which has now become the "free zone" of relations between the two peoples.

Fr Paul Jeremiah Hwang Yong-yeon, Secretary of the South Korean Caritas said the agreement "implies that North Korea acknowledges our work as the only channel of aid from Catholics from all over the world."

In recent years, Caritas had been given increasingly frequent permission by Pyongyang to collaborate on the humanitarian front, especially in the health and nutritional sectors.

However, the South Korean section could, for the most part, offer aid only on tragic occasions like the train disaster two years ago in Ryongcheon station.

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