Aid to North rises with little to show in return
Recently publicized material by the South Korean Unification Ministry revealed that a total of 340.6 billion won ($324.3 million) was spent on inter Korean cooperation projects from January until November this year, ranging from supporting the North Korean national soccer team to sending fertilizer aid to the North.
A total of 157.3 billion won was spent on fertilizer and rice aid to the North, making up almost half of the total aid given to Pyongyang, while the rest was spent on projects aimed at facilitating more exchange of personnel between the two Koreas. The countries are still technically at war since an armistice in 1953 ended the Korean War.
These projects include the Mt. Kumgang tours and expansion of the Kaesong industrial complex, which cost 2.2 billion won and 10.6 billion won, respectively.
For the cash strapped North, aid was also extended on the sports field as a total of 400 million won was given to the North in order for its national soccer team to travel to and play at international events staged in the South.
A total of 53 civic organizations supporting the North received 5.7 billion won. Oh My News, an Internet news service that sponsored a marathon competition in Pyongyang, received 80 million won.
Nevertheless, an international conference on North Korean human rights held recently didn’t receive any government aid. Also, an inter-Korean railroad system on which the government has spent 126.4 billion won has not been opened, due to the North’s refusal to cooperate.
Civic organizations have criticized the government for its “kid glove” handling of the human rights situation in the North despite the heavy annual aid that Seoul has given in recent years. Fearing to antagonise Pyongyang, Seoul has continuously sidestepped this issue.
by Chae Byung-gun