10/10/2006, 00.00
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Seoul: South Korean bishops meet to discuss aid for North after atomic test

by Joseph Yun Li-sun

The South Korean bishops, amid the general assembly of their conference, gathered all those involved in the sector of humanitarian aid for the people of North Korea. Tomorrow, the local Caritas director leaves for the north.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – The international crisis sparked by Pyongyang's nuclear test has changed the agenda of the Korean bishops, who are now trying to work out aid delivery to the people in the north of the peninsula. AsiaNews sources in Seoul say the director-general of the local Caritas will go to North Korea tomorrow.

In recent days, the bishops have been busy with the general assembly of the episcopal conference that comes to a close on 12 October. But they have had to modify the agenda of works to draw up a common position with regard to the new threat thrown onto the international scene by Pyongyang.

The AsiaNews sources said the bishops were set to gather all those involved in the sector of humanitarian aid for North Korea, to evaluate the impact of the crisis on projects of the local Church and Caritas for the people there, who have been worn down by the disastrous agricultural policies of the regime of Kim Jong-il.  

In the morning, the national director of the Korean Caritas, Fr Paul Jeremiah Hwang, participated in an extraordinary meeting: his contribution is especially important because the priest leaves tomorrow for North Korea.

His visit – described as "providential" – has been planned for some time. It was not cancelled or put off, a sign of Pyongyang's desperate need of international humanitarian aid, especially in view of sanctions about to be imposed by the UN.

According to initial leaks, conspicuous among the "punishments" lined up by the United Nations for the nuclear provocation, is the embargo on ships going to and coming from North Korean coasts. This, together with the blockade of Chinese merchandise, isolates North Korea from all possible food sources.

By land, Pyongyang can only reach Chinese and South Korean borders. After the launch of mid and long-range missiles on 6 July last, Seoul announced and implemented a blockade of humanitarian aid.

After yesterday's statements by Beijing – which described the nuclear test as a "brazen step despite the concerns of the international community" – Kim Jong-il will find himself alone while 23 million North Koreans risk dying of hunger.

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