Ruling party, gov’t see need to boost state inter-Korean cooperation fund

SEOUL, The ruling Democratic Party (DP) and the government on Monday said there is a need to sharply increase the size of the inter-Korean cooperation fund to brace for growing exchanges between the two Koreas.

The move reflects optimism for more inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation amid rapprochement on the Korean Peninsula and thawing ties between the United States and the North.

South Korea set up the fund in 1991 to facilitate inter-Korean exchanges. Since 2008, the fund has remained at near 1 trillion won (US$896 million) every year, although it has dipped below that level in 2017 and 2018.

The DP and Seoul's unification ministry shared the need to boost the fund to more than 1 trillion won before the National Assembly begins its review of the government's proposal for next year's budget, according to party officials.

"There is a need to prepare for potential increases in inter-Korean exchanges," said an official at the DP. "It would be inevitable to increase the fund for next year."

A proposal to raise expand the fund faced opposition from the main opposition party last year amid North Korea's nuclear test and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

But inter-Korean rapprochement has set in since North Korea sent its delegation to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February. The two Koreas held a historic summit in April, followed by another in May.

Seoul tapped the fund to assist North Korea's participation in the Olympics and visits by top North Korean officials to the South.

"About 1 trillion won is set aside for the fund, but the actual size of the money available remains less than 300 billion won. There is a need to review (the proposal to increase the fund)," Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said at a meeting on state finance last month.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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