W350 bil. set aside for NK projects
The unification ministry set aside around 350 billion won ($315 million) to connect the rail and road networks of the two Koreas, documents that were initially undisclosed showed.
According to documents Rep. Choung Byoung-gug of the Bareunmirae Party obtained from the ministry and National Assembly, 352.6 billion won out of a 1.97 trillion won fund for inter-Korean affairs had been set aside for the project to link transport networks with North Korea. The documents for the first time showed the government’s budget for the project.
Specifically, the ministry had set aside 134.1 billion won for rail connection and 54.8 billion won for roads. The ministry also reportedly drew up another 163.7 billion won for “establishing infrastructure for inter-Korean economic cooperation.”
The budget was drawn up at a time the project has been put on hold as the Koreas have yet to conduct inspections on train tracks in the North.
This is because the United Nations Command, which is in charge of approving personnel and equipment crossing the military demarcation line (MDL), has barred South Koreans from crossing to survey the North’s transport infrastructure.
This is seen as being due to the fact that a South Korean train carrying oil needs to cross the MDL. The United Nations Security Council sanctions on North Korea ban this. Resolution 2397 states “all member states shall prohibit the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to North Korea, through their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels, aircraft, pipelines, rail lines, or vehicles, of all refined petroleum products.”
The U.S. has maintained its stance that sanctions will not be eased until North Korea achieves denuclearization.
The Koreas had planned for the inspection of the North’s rail lines to take place in August, but the plan remains postponed.
The inspections would need to take place this month if the groundbreaking ceremony for the project to connect the railways were to take place in late November or early December, as the Koreas agreed at a high-level meeting last month.
Meanwhile, a unification ministry official said Thursday the government “is making preparations so the groundbreaking ceremony can take place as agreed.”