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Officials: No Nuclear Resolution, No Aid

Posted November. 07, 2005 07:23,   


What’s behind President Roh Moo-hyun’s directive that the establishment of the office of inter-Korean cooperation and the implementation of inter-Korean economic cooperation should be delayed pending the outcome of the six-party talks aimed at resolving the North Korean nuclear issue?

According to a compelling analysis, internal and external conditions are not ripe for managing the fund, which will be managed by the office of inter-Korean cooperation, thus raising the cost of inter-Korean economic cooperation.

The establishment and management of the office by the Unification Ministry–

Unification Minister Chung Dong-young said on October 10 at the inspection of the Unification Ministry by the National Assembly’ Unification, Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee, “The establishment of the office of inter-Korean cooperation, a public company responsible for inter-Korean economic cooperation and issues regarding the North Korean economy, is under review.”

According to a press release by the Unification Ministry, the office will form the fund with financial backing from home and abroad and will raise resources needed for inter-Korean economic cooperation.

However, it was found that Chung reviewed the establishment of the office without consulting with the Ministry of Planning and Budget about raising resources. Moreover, Cheong Wa Dae reportedly did not know the establishment measure details.

The Ministry of Planning and Budget concluded that the measures put forth by the Unification Ministry are not feasible. President Roh directed the Unification Ministry to take time to review the measures.

Brake on the Unification Ministry?-

A government official responsible for the North Korean project said, “President Roh seems to think that it will be difficult to realize the establishment of the office and comprehensive inter-Korean economic cooperation if the six party talks do not conclude well.”

In other words, while the uncertainties resulting from the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula remain unresolved, chances are low that local and foreign companies and institutions will invest in the kind inter-Korean economic cooperation being pushed by the office of the inter-Korean cooperation.

Some government officials pointed out that the Unification Minister pushed the announcement of the review of the office establishment and the following measures too quickly. Regarding the Unification Minister’s moves, including the review and announcement of the establishment of the office without consultation with Cheong Wa Dae, some criticize that “he went too far by having his own way.”

Inter-Korean economic cooperation in relation to the six-way talks-

Comprehensive inter-Korean economic cooperation is mainly about building industrial infrastructure for energy, telecommunications, logistics, and transportation.

President Roh said, “We need to devise comprehensive plans to help North Korea,” while presiding over the state council meeting at Cheong Wa Dae on September 20, the day after the agreement was made on the joint declaration at the fourth round of the six-party talks.

Accordingly, last month, the government formed a task force headed by Unification Vice Minister Lee Bong-jo and 14 heads of government ministries such as the Unification, Finance and Economy, and Commerce, Industry, and Energy ministries and is discussing concrete measures.

A government official said, “Raising private and foreign funds is the key to comprehensive inter-Korean economic cooperation that requires a huge amount of money. It is impossible to raise the huge amount of money when the nuclear issue remains unresolved. The president also shares this view.”

The official also added that with the decision on whether to build a light water reactor or not still up in the air, devising measures to supply the North with energy would be meaningless.

In order to build infrastructure for logistics, transportation and telecommunication, an actual inspection is essential. However, North Korea is unlikely to permit actual inspections until the nuclear issue is solved and assistance to the North is delivered.

Myoung-Gun Lee gun43@donga.com