중앙데일리

Letters show Unification Ministry pressured Woori

Sept 20,2006
Contrary to its statement on Tuesday, the Unification Ministry pressured Woori Bank to consider allowing North Korea to open a bank account, government documents obtained by a Grand National Party lawmaker showed yesterday.
A Unification Ministry official who asked not to be named said it was just a discussion and not formal pressure against the bank. He said the bank made its own decision, without being pressured by the ministry.
Representative Kwon Young-se obtained a copy of correspondence that the Unification Ministry sent to Woori Bank on March 28, and provided it to the JoongAng Ilbo.
According to the letter, the ministry tried to stretch the laws governing inter-Korean projects to grant the North’s wish. The North, in September of last year, asked the bank, which operates a branch in Kaesong Industrial Complex, to open an account under the name of the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee, headed by a South Korean official. The bank informed the Unification Ministry and consulted with it.
“The committee is composed of South Korean members, thus opening the account under its name is within the scope of approved inter-Korean cooperation projects,” the ministry told the bank in the letter.
The committee, however, is a North Korean corporation established under North Korean laws. Contrary to the ministry’s claim, North Korean officials are also working there.
Minutes of a meeting on March 7, where government officials discussed the issue, were also provided to the JoongAng Ilbo, showing the Unification Ministry apparently pressured the bank despite objections from other ministries. “We urge the bank to make a wise decision,” the ministry said, according to the minutes.
The bank, however, was opposed to opening an account for North Korea, citing South Korea’s financial laws and the U.S. Treasury Department’s anti-terror law. The bank also cited expected opposition from the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering in turning down the North’s request, the minutes said.


by Lee Young-jong


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