Local governments want to give aid to North Korea

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Local governments want to give aid to North Korea

Despite the government’s May 24 sanctions that forbid any aid for North Korea in the aftermath of the warship Cheonan’s sinking, a slew of local governments led by liberal heads are attempting to spend their own budgets to offer assistance.

According to the JoongAng Ilbo’s independent investigation, Seoul city government led by liberal mayor Park Won-soon has allotted 4.4 billion won ($3.9 million) of the budget solely for improving bilateral relations with Pyongyang, the North’s capital, in various ways. For instance, Park is reportedly mulling over restoring the stalled inter-Korean soccer game and launching a music performance in Pyongyang by Seoul city’s official orchestra. Officials at the city government also told the JoongAng Ilbo that the government has a plan to provide medical aid for North Korean children.

Incheon, a city west of Seoul, also has similar plans. In March, the city government, led by liberal mayor Song Young-gil, is expected to provide a large amount of malaria vaccine, worth about 300 million won, to the North, and build an industrial complex in Ganghwa Island. The city will also host a soccer match between North Korea’s April 25 Sports Club and Incheon United F.C. and also form a united football team for the 2014 Asian Games.

Goyang Mayor Choi Sung in Gyeonggi, who was a delegate of inter-Korean summit preparation during the Kim Dae-jung administration, also has a string of projects to improve frozen inter-Korean relations with a budget of about 1 billion won. The city government will support a local civic organization’s plan for providing flowers to the North as well as hold a cross-border marathon from Ilsan Lake Park to the Kaesong Industrial Complex. At the race, the mayor previously told local media that he will propose setting up a sisterhood relationship between Goyang and Kaesong to the North.

The Gangwon Provincial government on the East Coast will also support a local Christian community’s effort to send medicine for North Korean children suffering from tuberculosis. The government will also cooperate with the Incheon city government’s malaria project.

The local governments must spend money they have set aside since the Kim Dae-jung administration, during the heyday of inter-Korean relations with the so-called Sunshine Policy.

But with the Lee administration’s policy forbidding aid to the North, the Unification Ministry, which has to give the final authorization, is faced with a dilemma.

The Unification Ministry told the JoongAng Ilbo that it will convene a working-level meeting to listen to opinions of local government heads on Feb 3.

By Lee Won-jean [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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