South Korea considers approval of North Korea tuberculosis aid despite sanctions

SEOUL South Korea is considering allowing a shipment tuberculosis medication to North Korea, a government official said on Thursday, despite newly imposed sanctions against the reclusive state for its recent nuclear test and rocket launch.

The World Health Organization says 20 in every 100,000 North Koreans died of tuberculosis in 2014, more than five times the rate of South Korea.

The Eugene Bell Foundation, a non-profit group, said its shipment of medicine intended for the North has been held back at a South Korean port for a month.

“Our government is reviewing the foundation’s request,” said an official at the South Korean unification ministry, adding that its position of allowing humanitarian assistance to reach the underprivileged in North Korea remained unchanged.

South Korea earlier this week announced it would impose new sanctions against individuals and companies linked to Pyongyang’s weapons program and ban vessels that had stopped at North Korean ports in the past 180 days.

It has not formally banned humanitarian aid to the North that is intended for young children and pregnant women but has scrutinized and granted approvals on an individual basis, slowing the process.

Other forms of shipments and aid have been suspended under sanctions imposed after the sinking of a South Korean navy ship in 2010 that Seoul blames on the North, although Pyongyang denies any role.

(Editing by Jack Kim and Nick Macfie)

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