Seoul ups spending on inter-Korean affairs

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Seoul ups spending on inter-Korean affairs

The government will spend more next year to improve inter-Korean relations, even though the North’s unilateral decision on Saturday to postpone the reunions of separated families has soured relations between the two Koreas.

The Ministry of Strategy and Finance said Saturday that it has earmarked 1.34 trillion won ($1.24 billion) for unification affairs in the budget next year.

That amount is up 20.9 billion won from this year, the ministry said.

The government will spend 112.6 billion won on efforts to normalize operations of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, up from 90.2 billion won this year.

The industrial complex resumed operations Sept. 16 after a five-month shutdown.

The government plans to increase loans that support businesses operating there.

The ministry also allocated 40.2 billion won to build a park in the demilitarized zone, a pledge made by President Park Geun-hye in her address on Liberation Day, Aug. 15.

It will also spend 16.2 billion won on constructing the so-called Unification and Future Center, where young people can learn about what national unification could entail and engage in international activities with foreign students. The center is also expected to be utilized as a venue for summits between the two Koreas and reunions of separated families.

However, for humanitarian aid, the South will cut its budget from 723.8 billion won to 670.2 billion won next year. The government said it would continue offering humanitarian support regardless of the political situation.

The amount of rice aid will be kept at 400,000 tons. Fertilizer aid will also be kept at 300,000 tons.

BY SONG SU-HYUN [ssh@joongang.co.kr]

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