July 17, 2017 13:16
North Korea has asked the South Korean government for US$6 million through the UN Population Fund to pay for a census next year (US$1=W1,136).
Seoul said it is willing to pay the money, the first time any such request is being considered since the North's last nuclear test carried in January last year. An Unification Ministry official said Friday, "We received a proposal from the UNFPA that asked for US$6 million for the North Korean census. We are reviewing it how and how much to pay."
The request was made by North Korea Vice Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol, who visited the UNFPA office in New York last month.
Seoul believes that the request does not weaken international sanctions and could help increase engagement with the reclusive regime. It believes the fresh census data could be useful in future cooperation between the two Koreas and help it better grasp what life in North Korea is like.
The government also sees it as a good indirect contact at a time when Pyongyang is refusing all official dialogue. The South Korean government has already approved requests from NGOs to visit Pyongyang, but North Korea refused all of them.
An official at a state-funded think tank said, "The Moon Jae-in administration has a firm belief that humanitarian aid through international organizations should continue even at the height of political tensions in the Korean Peninsula."
North Korea plans to run a pilot survey for the census this October. The last census was carried out in 2008 with US$4 million in assistance from the South Korean government that came out of the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund. The Unification Ministry also provided US$1.3 million from the fund in October 2015 to collect health data, though only US$800,000 was actually spent.
According to the UNFPA, the North Korean population grew from 22.35 million in 2008 to 24.21 million in 2014.
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