03/11/2008, 00.00
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New Unification minister ties aid to North to human rights

Kim Ha-joong says South Korea is ready to review humanitarian aid if human rights, nuclear issue or inter-Korean relations are not dealt with.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – The priorities of the new South Korean government is not to please Pyongyang but rather to force the Communist regime to respect “human rights’ and its pledges on the denuclearisation of the peninsula. For this reason Seoul will review both the North Korea policy of the last administrations and the agreements struck between the two Koreas, said Unification minister-designate Kim Ha-joong at his confirmation hearing in the National Assembly.

Kim said it was “hard to take on board” all the inter-Korean agreements reached by Kim Dae-jong and Roh Moo-hyun.

He admitted that the Sunshine Policy of previous governments “had positive effects on expanding inter-Korean exchanges. But there were problems with its method, speed, scale and popular consensus.”

“It's not a good idea to tie humanitarian rice and chemical fertilizer aid to North Korea with its human rights record or the issue of the POWs and abduction victims,” Kim said. “But a comprehensive review of the North Korean nuclear issue or inter-Korean relations will be necessary if the humanitarian aid is of a large scale,” he added.

The minister’s statement reflects a new approach in South Korea’s unification policies.

With the election of conservative candidate Lee Myung-bak Seoul has changed its attitude towards the North.

The Unification Ministry itself came close to disappearing as the new administration restructured government departments in view of a policy shift towards closer ties to Japan and the United States and more restrained links to China and North Korea.

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