SEOUL, May 22 (Yonhap) -- Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul called Friday for anti-coronavirus cooperation with North Korea, saying the two sides should first work with each other to overcome the crisis.
Kim made the remarks in a speech congratulating the Korea NGO Council for Cooperation with North Korea (KNCCK), an umbrella organization of 55 nongovernmental organizations established in 1999 to facilitate cooperation among NGOs assisting the North.
"South and North Korea must be the first to join hands among many countries in times of crisis," the minister said, stressing that the two Koreas share a common fate.
The minister said that the government is "making preparations for comprehensive inter-Korean healthcare and medical cooperation," without elaboration.
"The COVID-19 pandemic is at a critical stage across the world ... the only way to overcome the crisis is through solidarity and cooperation."
He also urged KNCCK to become "a reliable partner in the path towards building a new future in the post-coronavirus age and overcoming COVID-19 together with the North."
South Korea has explored ways to kick-start stalled inter-Korean relations through joint efforts against infectious diseases, as such joint work in certain humanitarian areas is not subject to sanctions.
The North has not responded to South Korea's offers for any cross-border cooperation since a no-deal summit with the U.S. in February last year.