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Cut in Humanitarian Aid Latest Fallout from North Korean Shelling of South Korea

A North Korean ship passes between the North Korean mainland, background, and the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, foreground, 26 Nov 2010
A North Korean ship passes between the North Korean mainland, background, and the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, foreground, 26 Nov 2010

South Korea is further limiting the little assistance it allows to go to North Korea. The move comes after a barrage of artillery shells was fired at Yeonpyeong Island Tuesday. Two South Korean marines and two civilians died in the North Korean attack.

South Korea on Friday announced a further restriction on shipments of humanitarian aid to the impoverished communist North.

Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung says the move results from Tuesday's lethal artillery attack on a South Korean island.

Chun says shipments of even the most basic humanitarian aid heading to North Korea will be more strictly examined.

Seoul earlier this week announced its remaining promised flood relief to North Korea, including cement and medical supplies, was being immediately halted.

South Korea also canceled talks that had been scheduled for Thursday between the two countries' Red Cross societies. That has dashed hopes of any more reunions soon of long-separated families.

Since Tuesday's attack, South Korea has also prohibited its citizens from visiting the joint Korean industrial complex at Kaseong in the North.

This all does not sit well with a visiting United Nations official.

Concluding a five-day visit to South Korea, the U.N.'s special rapporteur on North Korea's human rights situation, requested that South Korea and other countries resume critical communication with Pyongyang as quickly as possible.

Marzuki Darusman says Tuesday's artillery exchange between the two Koreas certainly overshadowed his visit here to assess the human rights situation in North Korea, and is a setback for efforts to improve conditions in the isolated state.

"I would presume that this may have further repercussions in the short term. But it is my sincere hope that it is possible to overcome these misunderstandings and conflict soon and to recommence the dialog," said Darusman.

North Korea does not recognize the mandate of the U.N. envoy to investigate its human rights conditions.

Darusman's predecessor, Thailand's Vitit Muntarbhorn, never received Pyongyang's permission for a visit during his five-year tenure. And, the request by Darusman, a former Indonesian attorney general, last month to enter North Korea was also rebuffed.

"This would not preclude the possibility that, at some stage, such a visit could be made, one way or another," said Darusman.

North Korea is one of the world's poorest and most secretive countries.

The U.N. General Assembly's human rights committee last week called on Pyongyang to immediately end "the systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights" in North Korea.