May 28, 2020 13:19
The Unification Ministry will give US$4.9 million to a project by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific to help sustainable development in North Korea.
A ministry spokesman on Wednesday said the money will come from the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund.
The money will be doled out over the next six years, with $720,000 earmarked for this year, and will be chiefly spent to teach North Korean officials accounting.
"We expect that this project will contribute to integrating North Korea into the international community and creating a single unified market between the two Koreas in the future," the spokesman said. "We will ensure spending transparency by receiving reports every year."
But critics warn that there is nothing of a strikingly humanitarian or urgent nature about the project since North Korea may need to tackle a food shortage and other issues long before improving its statistical capabilities.
The government has been trying to accelerate various kinds of cross-border projects since the ruling party's landslide victory in April's general election.
The minister and vice minister of unification visited the demilitarized zone earlier this week and the government is now considering resuming tours to the border truce village of Panmunjom and reopening the DMZ hiking trail in Paju, Gyeonggi Province.
On May 20, the ministry declared null 2010 sanctions against the North imposed over the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan, claiming they no longer stand in the way of cross-border cooperation.
And on Tuesday, the ministry announced a plan to abolish restrictions on meetings between North and South Koreans.
But international sanctions and a deafening lack of interest in North Korea stand squarely in the way of all the government's quixotic efforts to engage the North. The U.S. State Department on Tuesday reiterated that inter-Korean cooperation must proceed "in lockstep with" progress in North Korean denuclearization.
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