South Korea’s cabinet Tuesday endorsed a bill which sets up a special fund to cover the huge cost of potential reunification with North Korea.
The bill calls for dividing the existing Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund into two accounts ― one for promoting cross-border cooperation and the other for covering unification costs, said the unification ministry.
The bill, endorsed at a cabinet meeting chaired by President Lee Myung-Bak, needs approval from parliament.
The unification account will draw funds from government and private donations, said the ministry, which handles cross-border affairs.
Estimates vary widely on the cost of reuniting the prosperous capitalist South and the impoverished socialist North, which have grown far apart over the past six decades.
Gross national income per capita in the South is now around 19 times larger than in the North.
A study sponsored by the ministry has estimated that basic welfare spending on North Koreans would cost 55 trillion won ($48.7 billion) for the first year after reunification.
The first-year figure could rise to 249 trillion won ― almost one quarter of the South’s 2010 national economic output ― if medical costs, pensions and other benefits were factored in. (AFP)