Gov't to Push Ahead with Quixotic Cross-Border Projects

  • By Kim Myong-song

    May 26, 2020 12:10

    The government is pushing ahead with a slew of quixotic cross-border projects despite a total lack of interest from North Korea and international sanctions.

    Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul visits the estuary of the Han River on Wednesday to inspect an inter-Korean waterway, the Unification Ministry said Monday.

    The same day Vice Unification Minister Suh Ho will visit a village on the southern side of the heavily fortified border with North Korea as part of efforts to list the demilitarized zone as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    The "inter-Korean" projects are now forlornly one-sided, but ministry spokeswoman Cho Hey-sil told reporters, "South and North Korea conducted a joint study of the estuary and reached an agreement over military guarantees, so the visit is part of inspections to live up to that agreement."

    The study was part of an inter-Korean military agreement signed in September 2018 and envisions the free passage of civilian vessels from both sides.

    The two Koreas did indeed conduct some studies of the estuary in November and December that year, but North Korea cut off all contact the following February after its second summit with the U.S. in Hanoi collapsed.

    Suh, meanwhile, will accompany the chief of the Cultural Heritage Administration on his visit to Daeseongdong, the only civilian village on the South Korean side of DMZ. The government is planning to conduct a comprehensive study of the area in a bid to list it as a World Heritage Site.

    Last week, the government said South Korea's 2010 sanctions against North Korea imposed over the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan are virtually no longer in effect and would not get in the way of cross-border projects.

    But that leaves rather more stringent UN Security Council sanctions firmly in place and makes no difference.

    A former South Korean government official last week urged the government here to push ahead with cross-border projects regardless of U.S. opposition and the South mentioned the possibility of allowing North Korean ships to pass through waters off Jeju Island, prompting the U.S. State Department to stress the importance of sticking to international sanctions against North Korea.

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