South Korea spent less than one-third of its fund intended to boost exchange and cooperation with North Korea last year, the unification ministry said Tuesday.
South Korea spent 296.4 billion won ($280 million) last year, or 27 percent of the 1.09 trillion won earmarked, for the inter-Korean cooperation fund, according to the ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs.
The figure represents the highest level in six years as the government paid insurance money to small South Korean companies that operate plants in the North’s border city of Gaeseong.
The South Korean companies received insurance money worth 177.7 billion won due to the months-long shutdown of the inter-Korean joint factory park in Gaeseong last year.
In 2008, the ministry spent 18.1 percent of the inter-Korean cooperation fund. The ratio dropped to 8.6 percent and 6.5 percent in 2009 and 2012, respectively, as inter-Korean relations soured.
The factory park resumed operations in September, more than five months after the North unilaterally closed it in anger over joint annual military exercises between South Korea and the United States. In August, Pyongyang pledged not to shut the park down again “under any circumstances.”
More than 44,600 North Koreans work at 120 South Korean firms operating in the park to produce clothes, shoes, watches and other labor-intensive goods. The project serves as a major legitimate revenue source for the impoverished communist country. (Yonhap News)