(AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)

Seoul -

South Korea has proposed sending emergency relief aid to North Korea, the first such offer since relations sank into a deep freeze after the death of the North's leader last December.

The South's Red Cross chief sent a proposal on Monday, calling for talks with North Korea on aid shipment, the Unification Ministry, which handles cross-border affairs, said on Friday.

Official aid from the South to the North often goes through the Red Cross as a matter of formality.

South Korea last sent such aid two years ago, although civilian groups have been allowed to ship aid to the impoverished North despite high cross-border tensions.

Minister Yu Woo-Ik said in a parliamentary session that Pyongyang had not reacted to the offer so far.

“We have conveyed our willingness to help North Korea's efforts to overcome flood damage,” he said, adding a drought this spring and floods this summer appeared to have brought severe damage to the North.

Yu's comment came a day after his ministry approved a request from Christian relief group World Vision to send 500 tons of flour to North Korean flood victims next week.

Pyongyang's state news agency said earlier that floods in June and July left 569 people dead or missing and washed away or inundated 65 280 hectares of cropland.

A strong typhoon which hit the Korean peninsula last Tuesday killed 48 people and damaged at least 50 000ha of farmland in the North, it said on Monday.

North Korea suffers chronic food shortages, with the situation exacerbated by floods, droughts and mismanagement. During a famine in the mid to late-1990s, hundreds of thousands died. - Sapa-AFP