Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said Friday that the US was blocking South Korean efforts to provide medical aid to North Korea.
In response to a ruling party lawmaker’s question during a parliamentary audit session on why the government was hesitant to provide medicine to treat tuberculosis and other diseases in the North, Park asked for understanding of the circumstances in which the ministry is “waiting for something bigger.”
“(The ministry) wishes and is taking steps to provide medicine to North Korea, but we are only at a preparatory stage due to various international restrictions,” Park said in response to a question by Rep. Jeon Hye-sook of the Democratic Party.
Health Minister Park Neung-hoo (Yonhap)
“We don’t have much going on with the North at the moment, but when more people get to visit the North, we will systematically provide aid.”
Later in the session, however, Park asked the recorders to delete his remarks about the US blocking medical aid as they may “bring about misunderstanding internationally.”
“What I meant is that (the US) is blocking not just medical aid, but generally everything. … It is a matter of subtlety in international relations.”
Health and Welfare Vice Minister Kwon Deok-cheol said in a supplementary answer. “The South and North stated in the Pyongyang Declaration that the two sides will cooperate to prevent epidemics and on health and medical issues.”
Kwon added that Seoul and Pyongyang officials agreed to strengthen collaboration when he was in Pyongyang to attend the ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the inter-Korean joint statement signed by President Roh Moo-hyun and late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on Oct. 4, 2007.
“We will take steps to expand (cooperation) through senior-level discussions (with the North),” he said.
By Kim So-hyun (email@example.com