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Controversies about Favorable Policies to the North

Posted March. 22, 2002 08:57,   


From next months, all students and teachers, members of the separated families, people of merits and veterans, and the handicapped people may pay only 30-40 percent of the tour fees when they trip to Mt. Keumgang.

The government decided to subsidize 60-70 percent expenses of Mt. Keumgang tour for students and teachers at the Inter-Korean Exchange Cooperation Council on 21st.

In consequence, the beneficiaries may enjoy the Mt. Keumgang tour for 2 days, which costs 350,000-500,000 won, by paying only 110,000 won for elementary students, 140,000 won for junior and senior high school students, and 200,000 won for college students, teachers, other beneficiaries. The potential beneficiaries of the new policy will number over 13 million people.

In addition, students and teachers from schools in remote area and the beneficiaries of social welfare will be exempted from whole tour fees.

The government subsidy will be limited to the necessary expenses. The tourists must pay for the tickets, toll fees, and the traffic fares to and from the Sokcho harbor. However, the government will not support the school excursion to Mt. Keumgang considering the possible protests of the domestic merchants in tourist areas.

The government expects that the number of tourists will increase up to 7,000 per month by the implementation of the new policy and 80 percent of them would benefit from the Inter-Korean Cooperation Funds. According to the estimation, the government will pay about 1.8 billion won per month to Hyundai Asan in lump sums.

However, controversies about the favorable policies to the North are likely to recur by the government decision to support such a big money to the Mt. Keumgang project while the North has not shown any positive sign to revitalize the project. In addition, by subsidizing the payments of private business, criticisms on preferential policies of the government may be arising.

Rep. Nam Kyung-Pil, the spokesperson of the Grand National Party, urged for an immediate cancellation of the new policy, saying “we oppose such an unreasonable support violating the principle of politics and economy separation.”

The government also made legal criteria for the operation of the duty-free shops in Mt. Keumgang, for example, the maximum hand baggage for the travelers will be 300 dollars per person.

Dong-Ki Sung esprit@donga.com