Cabinet passes bill for funding unification

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Cabinet passes bill for funding unification

The cabinet passed a bill to create a new budget to raise money for the reunification of the two Koreas, in which the government will allocate a certain amount of state funds and allow civilians to donate their money in support of government-led organizations.

The meeting led by President Lee Myung-bak approved the revised bill of the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund Act yesterday, changing the title to the Inter-Korean Cooperation and Unification Fund Act.

The bill will be introduced at a National Assembly session in August for final approval from both ruling and opposition lawmakers. “The new bill aims to support stable unification by saving a minimum amount of money for the first year after unification,” Kim Hyung-suk, spokesman for the Ministry of Unification, said.

“Through this bill, we are trying to prevent possible economic hardships in the aftermath of unification and have the current generation share the burden of unification for the future generation.”

Under the new bill, the funds for unification will be raised in three ways: government money, donation from civilians and reserves of the inter-Korean cooperation fund.

“Ordinary civilians can also donate their money to organizations designated by the unification minister,” he added.

So far, the South Korean government hasn’t done any fund-raising for unification, instead urging civilians to do it due to the strained relationship with the North.

However, concerns are rising about the cost of unification with the impoverished North, which many Southern experts say the capitalist South will have to pay.

Since 2011, the government has said that they will raise about 55 trillion won ($48 billion) for the new budget. In October 2011, the Unification Ministry speculated the cost will be 277 trillion won at maximum with the assumption that the two Koreas are unified in 2030.

However, it’s still unclear whether the bill will be passed at the National Assembly.

The Lee administration, which is eager to prepare for the unification, proposed the bill previously at the 18th National Assembly in February, but all of the main opposition Democratic United Party lawmakers who attended the session exercised their right to veto the bill.

The opposition lawmakers, who have lambasted the current administration’s policies toward the North, said that it’s too early to raise funds for unification amid a frosty inter-Korean relationship.

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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