In the wake of a destructive typhoon,the government in Pyongyang had said it would be open to possible humanitarian aid from Seoul. But just two days later, the secretive regime announced its refusal in a written notice, citing dissatisfaction over the aid being supplied, South Korea's Ministry of Unification reported.
In the past, North Korea has asked for aid in the form of rice, cement and heavy equipment. The South Korean government didn't included such items this time, fearing that they might be used for military purposes. Instead, it offered to supply 10,000 tons of flour, 3 million cups of instant ramen noodles, plus medicine and medical supplies worth $10 million.
"[South Korean officials] have hugely insulted us by offering insignificant goods," a North Korean Red Cross official was quoted as saying by KCNA, North Korea's national agency.
An official with the South Korean ministry shot back, "We hoped our aid to be helpful for the North Korean citizens, but feel resentful for such reaction from North Korea this time."
The decision dashed expectations of a thaw between the two Koreas.
"This was a significant opportunity to clear the air, leading up to South Korean presidential elections in December," said Yang Moo-jin, professor at University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. "The distrust between the two Koreas run deep, and unfortunately this time the two once again confirmed the misunderstanding of one another."
"There won't be significant change in the North-South Korean relationship within the current government," said Lee Dong-bok, a research fellow for Washington-based foreign policy think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies. "North Korea would have accepted the aid if they had concerns for the troubled citizens. But since they are treating the aid issue not from a humanitarian viewpoint, but with a political purpose, they didn't take it when it didn't meet their request."
--Jung-yoon ChoiPhoto: In this Aug. 4 file photo, residents wait to receive emergency aid from North Korean Red Cross officials in the flood-stricken city of Anju. Credit: Kim Kwang Hyon/Associated Press