Unification minister pledges support for provincial governments’ cross-border exchanges

SEOUL, Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul pledged Wednesday to "systematically" support provincial authorities' pursuit of inter-Korean cooperation projects, saying they will help address the "limits" of those led by the central government.

Kim made the remarks during a parliamentary forum on cross-border cooperation efforts that have been constrained by international sanctions and a lack of progress in nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.

"(I) will work to systematically support the provincial governments to ensure that they can proceed with various inter-Korean cooperation and exchange projects more actively and harmoniously," he said.

"Inter-Korean cooperation and exchanges will develop on a more robust footing should provincial governments utilize their respective traits and advantages to complement the limits of the central government," he added.

Kim also noted that the current level of cross-border cooperation has not yet met the "expectations and demands" of the provincial governments.

"But the role of the provincial authorities will increase to ensure that the breadth of inter-Korean relations expands and that (inter-Korean) exchanges become active," he added.

The minister pointed out that inter-Korean exchanges led by provincial governments will contribute to restoring a sense of homogeneity with North Koreans, revitalizing regional economies and creating more jobs.

"If there needs to be institutional improvements, we will make the improvements in consultation with relevant organizations," he said. "We will also try to find a way to activate joint cooperation concerning border areas."

The Seoul government has been pushing for a series of cross-border cooperation projects, believing that such projects will help build mutual trust, enhance bilateral ties and facilitate Pyongyang's nuclear disarmament.

But the projects have been hamstrung by an intricate web of global sanctions as Washington remains reluctant to loosen the sanctions regime until Pyongyang takes sweeping denuclearization steps.

Source: Yonhap news Agency

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