W350 bil. set aside for NK projects

The Korea Times - - NATIONAL - By Kim Bo-eun bkim@ko­re­atimes.co.kr

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.”

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