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Seoul sends tangerines to Pyongyang in return for mushrooms

By Wooyoung Lee
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Seoul sends tangerines to Pyongyang in return for mushrooms
Farmers harvest tangerines on Jeju, South Korea's southernmost island, on Oct. 2, 2018. Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- South Korea has sent tangerines to North Korea in return for mushrooms received in September.

The South Korean presidential office said that it is sending 20,000 boxes of tangerines in four shipments on Air Force cargo planes over Sunday and Monday.

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"This is in appreciation for the mushrooms that the North sent during the September summit in Pyongyang," said presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said, in a statement.

"We chose tangerines because it's the harvest season and we thought it's hard to get in the North because they are produced in the South," he said.

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Each box contains 10 kilograms (40 pounds) of tangerines, worth about $18 for a wholesale price, according to the daily market price report by the Citrus Marketing and Shipping Association in Jeju. The 200 tons of tangerines are estimated to cost at least $360,000 (400 million won).

The tangerines are harvested at farms on the southernmost island of Jeju, South Korea, Newsis reported.

The major opposition Liberty Party of Korea criticized the government's decision to send tangerines to the North.

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"The government only cares about improving the relation between North and South while ignoring the international agreement (on North Korean sanctions)," said Song Hee-kyung, spokeswoman of the LPK, in a statement on Sunday. "This goes against the agreed international effort for North Korean sanctions."

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In response to the criticism, Seoul's unification ministry, in charge of inter-Korean affairs, said that sending tangerines is not a violation of sanctions. A ministry official confirmed it's not a trade between North and South and the South Korean government sent food items to the North before, according to Newsis. In 2010, Seoul sent 500 tons of rice and 3 million instant noodles to flood victims in the North.

In September, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent 2 tons of wild pine mushrooms as a gift to commemorate the third inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang.

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A rare seasonal delicacy sold at a high price in South Korea and Japan, wild pine mushrooms picked in North Korea are sold for around $700 per 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) in the South, according to Yonhap News.

A presidential official said it's hard to put a price on the wild pine mushrooms from the North and they tried to match the value with tangerines in the Newsis report.

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