North Korea has rejected South Korean civic and religious groups' offers to resume exchanges in protest of Seoul's support of U.N. sanctions, the organizations said Monday, casting a cloud over fledgling efforts by the new liberal government to improve ties.
The Korean Sharing Movement, a South Korean civic group, said Monday that it will delay plans to ship aid supplies and visit North Korea, as Pyongyang took issue with the latest U.N. sanctions and South Korea's attitude toward its adoption.
It is preparing to send pesticide and medical supplies to fight malaria to North Korea in line with the Moon Jae-in government's policy to flexibly resume inter-Korean exchanges.
"We've decided to put off our plans to deliver the supplies and visit North Korea for cooperation," Kang Young-sik, the secretary-general of the group, said.
Last Friday, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to sanction more North Korean officials and entities, including a military unit handling ballistic missiles, after the North carried out a series of missile tests.
North Korea also rebuffed a plan by a South Korean association of seven religions to visit Pyongyang.
"North Korea sent a message via fax which says it is inappropriate for the two Koreas to talk about peace when South Korea supported the UNSC sanctions against the North last week," said an official at the Korean Conference of Religions for Peace.
North Korea's response is likely to dampen President Moon's move to seek engagement with the reclusive country.
If the North accepted the Korean Sharing Movement's shipments, it could have become the first local civic group to provide humanitarian assistance to the North since January 2016.
The government under former President Park Geun-hye has suspended almost all civilian exchanges with North Korea since the country's fourth nuclear test early last year.
On May 22, Seoul's unification ministry said that it will sternly respond to North Korea's provocative acts, but plans to resume civilian inter-Korean exchanges to an extent that the move would not hamper the international sanctions regime.
The government has approved a total of 15 requests by civic groups to contact North Koreans over inter-Korean exchanges since Moon took office in May.
A ministry official said the government has no comment on North Korea's latest rejection.
Meanwhile, a local civic group said it has accepted North Korea's proposal to hold a joint summit anniversary event in Pyongyang this month.
The South's part hoped to hold the event on June 15 in the North Korean border city of Kaesong, but the North's side insisted that it should be held in Pyongyang.
"We plan to ask the government to approve our plan to visit North Korea after discussing details of the event such as a delegation," the group said.
South and North Korea held their first summit in June 2000, which produced key agreements on inter-Korean reconciliation.
The ministry cast a prudent stance over whether it will approve the South group's visit, saying that it will take into account the event's purpose, inter-Korean relations and the international environment. (Yonhap)