Gov’t O.K.s action plan on unifying two Koreas

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Gov’t O.K.s action plan on unifying two Koreas

The South Korean government is moving as planned to prepare a draft that will outline how the unification of the Korean Peninsula will come about, including policies on how funds for unification will be procured.

The government has moved quickly toward detailed plans after President Lee Myung-bak mentioned a unification tax during his Independence Day address in August. The speech ignited public debate soon after.

The Ministry of Unification approved five plans yesterday regarding the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund, to mark the end of a conference to promote a North-South exchange chaired by Unification Minister Hyun In-taek that started last Friday.

The ministry has dedicated 3.8 billion won ($3.36 million) for policy research and soliciting public support, the Unification Ministry said. Money for the project will come from the cooperation fund.

Policy research will delve into five different agendas: a unification strategy, peace, economy, ethnicity and unification funds, the last of which will include a unification tax. The Unification Ministry will designate existing institutions by late November to be responsible for the research, which will be conducted through the Public Procurement Service.

Seminars and academic conferences are also expected to be held, since 2.13 billion won of the project’s budget will be spent on public opinion.

Hyun had previously said during an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily that the ministry hoped to have a plan for unification by the middle of next year.

The government has tried to reassure the public that the plan is not for sudden change, but for gradual unification.

Other bills passed during the conference yesterday were a plan to lend 7 billion won to South Korean companies that have suffered since investing in North Korea from January to May this year. Right now, 42 companies can apply, with the exception of those in the Kaesong Industrial Complex and the Mount Kumgang resort.

Also, 5 billion won in loans will be made available for 24 businesses that were hit by the extended suspension of Mount Kumgang tours in the North. The loans will all be taken from the cooperation fund, with maximum loans of 1.5 billion won per business with a yearly interest rate of 2 percent.

By Christine Kim []
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