by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Aug 23, 2012
North Korea has agreed to meet South Korean private groups for talks about aid following deadly floods, officials said Thursday, despite icy relations between the two governments.
The North's Council for National Reconciliation sent a message last week to the South's non-governmental organisations accepting their offer of discussions, the South's unification ministry said.
An official of South's Korea NGO Council for Cooperation (KNCC) with North Korea told AFP they plan to visit Kaesong city just across the border for the meeting on Friday.
The ministry, which must by law authorise all cross-border contacts, said it has approved a request from four NGO members to visit Kaesong.
KNCC said it wants to reach agreement as soon as possible so it can ship aid before the Chuseok holidays from September 29-October 1.
Cross-border relations have been frosty for years and worsened sharply in recent months. The North threatens "sacred war" against the South's conservative government for alleged insults to, and plots against, its regime.
The North is grappling with the after-effects of floods that killed 169 people and left 400 missing, according to Pyongyang's official figures.
Its state media said floods and torrential rain between late June and the end of July also made 212,200 people homeless.
Floods were said to have washed away or inundated 65,280 hectares (161,310 acres) of cropland, in a country already suffering severe food shortages.
United Nations agencies have visited the worst-hit areas to assess needs and are delivering food and other aid.
The country suffered a famine in the 1990s that killed hundreds of thousands and still struggles to feed its people even in normal times.
In February the United States reached a deal to offer the North 240,000 tonnes of food in return for a freeze on nuclear and missile tests.
But the plan was scrapped after Pyongyang's failed rocket launch in April, seen by the US and its allies as an attempted ballistic missile test.
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