South Korea is a sovereign state in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighboured by China to the west, Japan to the east, and North Korea to the north. With an estimated population of 50 million, it covers a total area 98,480 square kilometres which includes partially forested mountain ranges separated by deep, narrow valleys. Its main exports are wireless telecommunications equipment, motor vehicles and computers. Korea was one nation under the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties until the end of the Korean Empire in 1910, when Japan began a 35-year period of colonial rule. Japan surrendered to the Allied Powers in 1945 and three years later the country split in two, beginning decades of conflict between North and South. The current president of The Republic of Korea (South Korea) is Park Geun-hye. She is the first woman to be elected as President in South Korea.
Seoul approves first North Korea aid since rocket launch
South Korea on Friday approved the first shipment of humanitarian aid to North Korea since military tensions spiralled after Pyongyang’s rocket launch in December and nuclear test last month.
Eugene Bell, a South Korean charity, was given the green light to ship tuberculosis medicine worth US$605,000 for its medical service programme in the North, the unification ministry said.
But ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-Suk stressed the decision should not be seen as a conciliatory gesture at a time of highly-elevated military tensions on the Korean peninsula.
“The approval is strictly for humanitarian purposes and should not be read as a message to condone North Korea’s recent provocations,” he said.
In recent weeks, North Korea has made multiple threats of an armed response to joint South Korea-US military drills and to United Nations sanctions imposed after its February nuclear test.
South Korea halted government food and fertiliser shipments to the North after former president Lee Myung-Bak’s conservative administration took office in early 2008.
Humanitarian aid by civic groups was allowed to continue, with the most recent shipment taking place in November last year.
South Korea’s new President Park Geun-Hye had campaigned on a promise of greater engagement with Pyongyang and held out the possibility of resuming official aid.
But the rocket launch and nuclear test, and the UN sanctions that followed both events, have put any rapprochement plans on the back burner.
The North suffers chronic food shortages, with the situation exacerbated by floods, droughts and mismanagement. Hundreds of thousands died during a famine in the mid- to late-1990s.