Cash aid for ailing investors in North

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Cash aid for ailing investors in North

The Ministry of Unification announced a plan yesterday to pay cash to local firms financially distressed by the suspension of inter-Korean trade and economic cooperation.

The unprecedented aid totaling 7.5 billion won ($6.7 million) will go to South Korean businessmen who have financially suffered from Seoul’s imposition of economic sanctions on North Korea on May 24, 2010 in the wake of the North’s sinking of the South’s naval vessel Cheonan earlier that year, said Kim Hyung-suk, a unification ministry spokesman. The 7.5 billion won comes from the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund.

The offer of cash aid to companies doing business with North Korea is a first. Previously, authorities provided loans worth a total of 56.9 billion won to 221 companies on two occasions in 2010 and this year.

The decision comes as all economic cooperation between Seoul and Pyongyang has been put on hold except at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, since the implementation of measure announced by the Lee Myung-bak administration in May 2010.

The sanctions on trade with North Korea in the wake of the sinking of Cheonan, which killed 46 naval officers in March 2010, stopped all business partnerships.

“As it is mainly small- and medium-sized companies that are in financial difficulties due to the halted economic activities in the North, we expect the funds to help them recover,” said Yoon Min-ho, director of the economic cooperation division at the ministry.

To be eligible, companies must have investment records in the North during the two years before May 2010 or a history of trading with Pyongyang one year before May 2010.

The ministry will provide between 5 million won and 20 million won to each company that invested in the North following due diligence. Business groups that invested more than $3 million in the North will be given the maximum amount of 20 million won.

For traders with volumes of trade of over $1 million, aid of 15 million won will be given.

Companies that invested in the Mount Kumgang tourism business, which was curtailed after a North Korean guard shot a South Korean tourist in 2008, can also apply for assistance.

By Kang Jin-kyu [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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