North Korea Rejects Malaria Package from the South After Sanctions

Moon jae In
South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivers a speech during a ceremony marking Korean Memorial Day at the National Cemetery in Seoul, South Korea, June 6, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

North Korea has rejected antimalarial tablets from a South Korean civic-group called the Korean Sharing Movement, a spokesman for the group has said. New president Moon Jae-in had given the group permission to reach out to North Korea as part of a greater plan to expand civilian exchanges between the two countries.

The antimalarial exchange was the South Korean government's first approval of cross-border civilian exchanges since January 2016. Malaria is a problem in the south of the country, and travellers to North Korea are advised to take pills to protect against contracting the illness. Pyongyang has reported efforts to reduce malaria cases which, according to the World Health Organization, have decreased markedly. In 2012 North Korea had 21,850 malaria cases in 2012. In 2015 it had 7,010.

The South Korean group had finalized plans to make the trip. The Korean Sharing Movement had exchanged emails with people in the north and was to deliver insecticides and other anti-malarial items. It's thought North Korea pulled out of the arrangement after Seoul adopted more stringent strategies regarding to sanctions on Pyongyang.

Citizens from the two nations are banned from writing, telephoning, or emailing each other without government permission, however Moon had promised increased communication with North Korea during his election campaign as part of a new "Sunshine Policy."

The original Sunshine Policy implemented by Moon's liberal predecessor Kim Dae-jung in 2000 recommended warmer engagement with the north through discussion and tourism. The policy, which won Kim a Nobel Peace Prize, also encouraged mutual economic development. However, since the death of Kim Jong Il, leader Kim Jong Un's father, the relationship between the two country has cooled, and instead, missile tests have proliferated.

Some critics as well as the conservative government that came into power after Kim Dae-jung believe the Sunshine Policy was a failure. They say that rather than co-operation, the money sent to North Korea only lined the pockets of corrupt officials or was spent on nuclear weapons. However when the policy was in effect tourism to North Korea increased and twice-yearly meetings were established for families separated by the border. The fear of war was reduced, something Moon is keen to encourage.

Moon has said he will travel to North Korea to meet with Kim Jong Un, but has not set a date for such a visit.