Gov't Downplays Cost of Inter-Korean Projects

  • By Yoon Hyung-jun

    September 12, 2018 13:54

    The Cabinet on Tuesday approved a motion for parliamentary ratification of the joint declaration, which was signed at the inter-Korean summit in the border truce village of Panmunjomon April 27.

    The government estimates the cost of implementing the declaration at W471.2 billion for 2019, up from W172.6 billion for this year (US$1=W1,128). The money is to be spent to reconnect railways between the two Koreas and implement a joint forestry project.

    Moon urged the opposition to cooperate in ratifying the declaration, saying, "I ask the parliament to stop pursuing partisan interests for the greater cause for the entire nation." But the opposition accused the government of trying to sneak the budget past lawmakers by only tabling the cost for one year.

    Normally, the government lays out the potential effect of an agreement on tax revenues over the next five to 10 years when it submits a motion for parliamentary ratification of it.

    President Moon Jae-in chairs a Cabinet meeting at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Tuesday. /Newsis

    And the estimates differ greatly from past government calculations. In 2008, the Unification Ministry predicted that about W14.3 trillion would be needed to implement the Oct. 4 Declaration signed at the second inter-Korean summit in 2007. Implementing that declaration is one of the major promises of the summit.

    But the W643.8 billion earmarked for the two years is a mere 4.5 percent of the budget 10 years ago, so the costs are likely to snowball.

    "We are jumping ahead although there has been no progress in denuclearization," an opposition lawmaker said. "It just looks like the government is trying to appease [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-un ahead of the next summit" in Pyongyang.

    The ruling party also urged the National Assembly to pass the motion quickly, but there is little hope that the opposition will be mollified soon. 

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