South Korea Church Council to be Sued for Sending Aid to North

The South Korean government has reportedly expressed its anger towards the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) for violating legal restrictions in place to govern exchanges between North and South Korea.

According to ENInews the South Korean government may sue the NCCK as it claims the Church Council did not receive government permission before sending $87,000-worth of aid support to a North Korean Christian group.

The current escalation of events comes following rising tensions between Christian groups wishing to send food and medicines north across the border, and the South Korean government, which has maintained a resolute policy of overseeing all exchanges with its neighbor.

ENInews has reported that Rev. Heawon Chae, executive coordinator of the Ecumenical Forum for Peace, Reunification, and Development Cooperation on the Korean Peninsula – a group affiliated with the NCCK, has said: “The NCCK sent 172 tons of flour, worth $87,000, to the North Korean Christian Federation on May 18, through the Amity Foundation in Nanjing, China.

"The South Korean government is now angry with the NCCK and plans to sue, claiming the move violated the Law of Civilian Cooperation and Exchange between the North and the South.”

He explained, “The law forbids any contact with North Korea without government permission.”

Agence France-Presse reported earlier in May that Seoul issued an explicit warning telling Christian groups not to make any unauthorized aid transactions with North Korea.

It is alleged, however, that Christian groups decided to ignore that warning, rather choosing to act on their compassion towards the starving people of North Korea. Rev. Chae explained to ENInews at the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Jamaica: “Because of South Korean President Lee Myung Bak’s stance for the past three years, we could not send any food or medicine to the starving people in North Korea. But we will follow the order of Jesus Christ, to love our suffering neighbors.”

The news comes as U.S. rights envoy Robert King headed to North Korea earlier this week on Tuesday, to take part in the first official U.S. visit to Pyongyang in 17 months.

The U.S. government is currently considering whether to resume food aid to North Korea.

The week-long trip is being used to evaluate North Korea’s pleas for food, which have been questioned by South Korea as well as some high profile U.S. senators, according to Reuters.

A United Nations report earlier this year told that more than 6 million North Koreans urgently needed help. However, Washington has warned that the envoy’s visit in no way guarantees that aid will be resumed.