[EDITORIALS]An unfair burden
South Korea, the United States and Japan are engaged in a war of nerves over the termination procedure of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization’s light-water reactor construction in North Korea. All three countries have agreed to the termination of the project, but differ on how to do so. South Korea wants to declare that the project will be terminated after preparing a framework for financial and legal settlements. The United States and Japan, however, want to make the announcement first. Such differences in opinion are connected to who will pay what in termination expenses.
There is currently no official agreement among the three countries on the issue. Therefore, how to share the estimated 200 billion won ($193 million) termination cost depends on future negotiations.
The problem is that South Korea is likely to pay the major part under current circumstances. The main contractor with KEDO is the Korea Electric Power Corporation, and Washington and Tokyo’s positions appear to show their intention that Seoul should pay most of the expenses. South Korea has so far paid 70 percent of construction costs and the other two countries may claim the same rate should apply to termination expenses.
We, however, object to such a division, particularly because South Korea has proposed to provide 2 million kilowatts of electricity to North Korea in return for ending the light-water reactor project. If Seoul has to pay a large portion of the termination expenses, in addition to up to 8 trillion won for the power transmission, the government won’t be able to persuade the people over such spending.
The United States and Japan will likely argue the electricity transmission was South Korea’s independent decision so has nothing to do with the light-water reactor project’s termination. It is urgent for Seoul to come up with a concrete and convincing plan to persuade Washington and Tokyo to lower its financial burden.
With the planned termination of the light-water reactor project, 1.2 trillion won of Koreans’ tax money has been wasted. Koreans will also have to pay an enormous sum in the future. If the spending is directly linked to a complete end of the peninsula’s nuclear crisis, Korea cannot avoid paying much more for such an outcome. We are concerned, however, that almost no clue has been seen of an end to Pyongyang’s nuclear aspirations, even though more than a decade has passed since the 1994 Geneva Agreement, and Koreans have poured in huge resources.