[EDITORIALS]Financing aid to the North

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[EDITORIALS]Financing aid to the North

Controversy is heating up over the Unification Ministry’s plan to resort to issuing government bonds to finance aid to North Korea. Supporters say, “We have no other choice, if we are to maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula,” while critics say, “It is absurd to go into debt to help North Korea when the domestic economy is also in difficulty.”
There seems to be public sympathy for basic humanitarian aid for North Korea and mutually beneficial inter-Korean economic cooperation programs such as the development of the Kaesong Industrial Complex. If the two Koreas were suddenly unified with the North in its current condition, the South would not be able to cope with the unification cost. In that respect, economic improvement in the North is needed. But, regarding the details of the aid and economic cooperation programs, which cost astronomical amounts, there are conflicting opinions among South Koreans.
First of all, there are conflicting views on whether the current methods of helping North Korea are realistic and constructive. Conservatives are asking what changes the aid from South Korea has brought in North Korea’s domestic and foreign policies. They point out that the human rights of North Koreans have not improved and that those who had been kidnapped by North Korea and South Korean war prisoners are still being detained by the North. Accordingly, we should put limits on accepting the North’s exorbitant demands for help, they say. But the progressives assert that the aid is proper because “without the aid to North Korea, it would have had to pay a huge cost due to the growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.”
It is reasonable to say that the South should continue to provide aid but it should be efficient and effective. If we help, we should at least see some easing of tension around the Military Demarcation Line in return. Cooperation should be made to benefit both sides, not to demand a unilateral sacrifice of South Korea.
It is time to end debate based on ideological lines regarding inter-Korean cooperation and achieve public agreement on the issue. In this respect, the role of the National Assembly is important. The governing and opposition parties should make a bipartisan effort to reach an agreement. And the administration should not propose aid projects without concrete plans to finance them. The Unification Ministry should keep in mind the reason the Ministry of Planning and Budget put the brakes on its plan to establish a state-run company for North Korean projects.
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