October 05, 2018 13:20
Minjoo Party lawmaker Lee Hae-chan and Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon led a 160-member South Korean delegation to North Korea on Thursday for a ceremony marking the anniversary of the 2007 inter-Korean summit.
South Korea will pay for their entire trip although typically the host country picks up the tab for visiting dignitaries' accommodation.
A Unification Ministry official told reporters, "We expect to spend W280 million for the trip and authorized the spending from the [inter-Korean cooperation] fund on Monday" (US$1=W1,130).
The official said actual payment will be made after negotiations with the North Koreans over the exact expenses. "The W280 million covers the entire event, but we need to hold talks to determine how much of the lodging expenses we will cover," another ministry official said.
In ordinary circumstances a country inviting officials from abroad puts them up at its own expense, but a government official here claimed, "That does not apply in cases like this involving both government officials and civilians."
The ministry said it is proper for each participating group to cover their expenses, but the government is also expected to pick up the tab for members of the ostensibly independent Roh Moo-hyun Foundation who are visiting the North.
Only 30 members of the delegation are government officials, while 130 are civilians.
It is also uncommon to fly such a large number of civilians on a military plane instead of a civilian one. One former ministry official said, "The payment for accommodation is being handled according to the practice at civilian events, yet the use of a military aircraft follows government protocol. The ministry is contradicting itself."
There are also concerns that the payment could violate UN Security Council sanctions that ban the transfer of bulk cash to the North.
A ministry official claimed, "Projects aimed at restoring harmony among the Korean people do not violate sanctions against North Korea." But there is no mention of such an exemption in UNSC resolutions.
Meanwhile, the South Korean delegation on Thursday visited the Sci-Tech Complex in Pyongyang, an atom-shaped building that features mock-ups of the North's long-range missiles and other weapons.
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com