A civilian group of both progressive and conservative NGO officials will travel to North Korea next month.
A Cheong Wa Dae official said Wednesday that the Korean Sharing Movement applied for permission to visit North Korea, and Chung Eui-yong, the head of the Cheong Wa Dae security team, is minded to approve the request.
Once the Unification Ministry authorizes the trip, they will be joined by a 17-member delegation led by Minjoo Party lawmaker Won Hye-young and People's Party lawmaker Chung Jung-bae on June 10.
After several strong earthquakes and aftershocks this year, the nationwide disaster alert system is getting an upgrade.
The Ministry of Public Safety and Security on Monday said that the Korea Meteorological Administration will send text message alerts directly to residents when a quake with a magnitude greater than 3.0 strikes.
For quakes stronger than 5.0, the alerts will be sent in under 50 seconds.
The goal is to get the alerts out in under 25 seconds by the first half of 2017.
Some 12,000 North Korean families have moved into newly built homes in flood-ravaged North Hamgyong Province, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said Monday.
The Unification Ministry here estimates that around 15,000 homes were destroyed in the recent floods in the North and some 37,700 households were affected by the disaster.
But the regime also found the money and manpower to make life more agreeable for leader Kim Jong-un. A private road is being built in the province so Kim can get to his summer homes there, according to a source.
Global warming is expected to damage rice production in Korea as increasing areas of the country become suitable for tropical fruit farming.
The Rural Development Administration warned that Korea's rice output will fall to 408.7 kg per 1,000 sq.m in 2040, a 13.6-percent decline compared to 473 kg from 1990 to 2000.
If global warming progresses at the current pace, Korea's rice output could fall 22.2 percent by 2060 and 40.1 percent by 2090, it estimated.
Lee Hee-ho, the widow of former President Kim Dae-jung, visited an orphanage and a nursery in Pyongyang on Thursday, the second day of her stay there.
Lee delivered humanitarian goods including woolen hats and mufflers that she had prepared with a civic group of which she is honorary chairwoman, according to the Kim Dae-jung Peace Center.
She also delivered W300 million worth of medicines donated by the Korea Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, including nutritional supplements (US$1=W1,170).
The North Korean regime started to distribute the land of collective farms to households across the reclusive nation. Household farming already started in selected regions several years ago.
A source on Monday said all farms in the country, excluding Sukchon and Nampo in South Pyongan Province were ordered to implement a household farming system in the middle of this month. Land and livestock are being distributed to households.
Korean relief troops returned home from the Philippines on Tuesday, where they were stationed to help rebuild Tacloban after it was devastated by typhoon Haiyan last year.
Their mission officially concluded with a ceremony at the Army's Special Warfare Command in Seoul on Wednesday, with over 1,200 servicemen and their families present.
At the request of the Filipino government, the Araw Unit was deployed on Dec. 27, 2013 and committed to help the people of Tacloban rebuild their lives.
Korea will send a small team of medical experts from the ministries of health and welfare, defense and foreign affairs to Ebola-hit West Africa early next month. They are to pave the way for a bigger contingent later.
Officials from the ministries made the decision in a meeting chaired by Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yeol on Monday, according to a government official.
They will go to Liberia or Sierra Leone or both.
The North Korean regime has recently decided to hand over about 3,300 sq.m of land to each farmer and change the crop-sharing ratio between the state and individual farmers from 7:3 to 6:4 in a bid to increase food production.
The regime decided to distribute the land of collective farms to each household and let them grow crops on about 20 percent of the plot for their own consumption, a source said.
Farmers can also keep 40 percent of the crops grown on the remaining 80 percent of the land while giving the remainder to the state, the source added.
Measles continues to spread in North Korea from the country's capital to other cities.
Radio Free Asia reported on Wednesday that measles broke out in Yongchon in mid-June and is now reaching Sinuiju, both in North Pyongan Province on the Chinese border, despite authorities’ efforts to prevent the spread.
There have been separate reports recently that the country’s capital of Pyongyang was also hit by the disease in June.
North Korea is suffering such a serious drought that soldiers have been mobilized to irrigate fields and paddies.
In North Pyongan Province alone, "hundreds of thousands of functionaries and workers are waging a battle in cooperation with soldiers to irrigate fields and paddies every day," the official Rodong Sinmun daily wrote Saturday.
The state-run [North] Korean Central News Agency carried pictures of farmers at a cooperative farm in Pyongyang bringing water in buckets or plastic bottles and pouring it over parched paddies.
A South Korean charity will send the biggest consignment of food aid to North Korea since the Park Geun-hye administration took office here.
ChildFund Korea will dispatch about 200 tons of food from Incheon Port on Wednesday morning bound for the North Korean port of Nampo, a spokesman said Tuesday.
The shipment is worth about W200 million (US$1=W1,065) and marks the first in recent years to go beyond medical or nursery supplies for infants.
Seoul is permitting two private aid groups to send US$1-million worth of humanitarian aid to North Korea in another sign of growing goodwill.
The Unification Ministry made the announcement Friday and said the shipments will be mainly composed of anti-tuberculosis drugs and baby milk powder.
This brings to five the number of private organizations that have been allowed to send aid to the country this year, with the total amounting to more than $1.5 million.
The Foreign Ministry has decided to donate US$5 million to the Philippines after super typhoon Haiyan left more than 12,000 people dead or missing. The amount covers food and medical supplies requested by the Philippine government.
The ministry said the amount was determined in comparison with aid for other disasters.
But there is criticism that the amount is puny given that the Philippines sent troops to help during the Korean War. The U.S. has pledged $20 million, the U.K. $16 million, Japan $10 million, Australia $9.4 million, and Canada $5 million.
The South Korean Red Cross said Monday it decided to donate US$100,000 to flood victims in North Korea through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The money will be sent to the IFRC bank account in a day or two, a spokesman said. The IFRC will then buy relief materials such as tents, emergency supplies and cooking utensils and distribute them to flood victims in cooperation with the North Korean Red Cross Society.
The donation comes from the KRC's "fund for North Korean residents."
North Korea has been experiencing unusually dry weather since late April and the South’s Korea Meteorological Administration expects the dry spell on the peninsula to continue until the end of this month.
The state-run Korea Rural Economic Institute here expects the North’s barley and wheat production yields to drop 20 percent this year, with overall crop production down around 15 percent. The institute added that if the drought continues, the regime may face a severe food shortage.
North Korea has asked an international organization for vaccines to treat North Korean children suffering from infectious diseases. South Korea's Unification Ministry said the Seoul-based International Vaccine Institute is waiting for its approval to deliver vaccines and other supplies to the North.
Local broadcaster KBS reported earlier that Christian Loucq, the institute's director-general, said Pyongyang requested the vaccine aid during his visit there a month ago.
Nearly two-thirds of North Korean children under 10, or some 2.2 million, suffer from growth disorders related to malnutrition and 18,000 of them are so undernourished that their life is at risk, according to a study.
Hwang Na-mi, a researcher at the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs in Seoul, published her findings in the March issue of the journal Health and Welfare Forum on Sunday. She analyzed a nutrition assessment conducted in the North by the UNICEF in cooperation with the North's Central Statistics Bureau in 2004 and 2009.
North Korea has apparently agreed to increase the number of independent monitors who will observe food aid distribution there, removing a major stumbling block to the resumption of aid to the repressive country.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government on Sunday said it plans to spend W4.4 billion on six inter-Korean exchange programs this year (US$1=W1,130).
It said the money will be injected into humanitarian aid to malnourished infants and children in the impoverished North and improvement of medical facilities there.
The city government plans to use a fund totaling about US$16 million set aside for inter-Korean projects.