“Are there any ways to send the Jeju tangerines early to the North?” said President Moon Jae-in when he decided to send the tangerines from the South Korean resort island of Jeju to North Korea in return for the 200 tons of pine mushrooms Kim Jong Un sent to the South right after the inter-Korean summit held in Pyongyang in September. But the tangerines were sent to the North on November 11-12, 50 days after the South received pine mushrooms from the North.
President Moon urged that the tangerines be sent sooner to the North for several times, but it got delayed by the general affairs office under the presidential office, concerning about the yield of tangerines in Jeju Island. According to an official from the ruling party, the presidential office decided to send the tangerines in the middle of November, when the yield of tangerines is at its peak, as purchasing 200 tons of tangerines in September or October could affect the market price of tangerines. Presidential Secretary for General Affairs Lee Joung-do, an ex-economic bureaucrat, is so strict in executing the budget that he is called the “Wailing Wall” in the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.
In particular, Cheong Wa Dae used its operational expenses to buy and transport the tangerines instead of using the inter-Korean Cooperation Fund to cover the cost in fear of violating the sanctions against North Korea. The annual operational expenses of Cheong Wa Dae is about 5.67 billion won. It collected 567 million won by cutting 10 percent of its operational expenses to buy and transport the tangerines.
Cheong Wa Dae and the Ministry of Unification reportedly planned to spend the money from the inter-Korean Cooperation Fund. But Cheong Wa Dae’s plan suffered a setback as some pointed out that using the fund to cover a gift to the North would violate the “ May 24 sanctions on North Korea” that banned South Korea from trading with North Korea. In fact, the movement to send tangerines to North Korea by a humanitarian aid group in Jeju was suspended due to the “May 24 sanctions.” When asked about the expenses used to buy the tangerines at the National Assembly's House Steering Committee meeting on Nov. 13, Presidential Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok said, “The presidential secretary for administrative affairs set aside some operational expenses for unexpected spending at the year-end without me knowing it.”