The Korea Herald


Unification Ministry budget to increase 10.4% next year

By Korea Herald

Published : Sept. 18, 2014 - 21:39

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South Korea announced a double-digit increase in next year’s budget for its ministry handling North Korean affairs on Thursday, emboldened by President Park Geun-hye’s reunification drive.

The Unification Ministry’s total budget will jump 10.4 percent on-year to 1.4 trillion won ($1.3 billion) in 2015, according to the government’s new budget plan approved by the Cabinet. It requires parliamentary endorsement.

The ministry’s general budget will grow 5.8 percent to 230 billion won, which includes 37.7 billion won for ministry officials’ wages and 182 billion won for various projects.

The ministry said it plans to expand defector assistance programs, unification-related education and humanitarian projects such as reunions of separated families and aid for babies and pregnant women in the impoverished communist country.

“The 2015 general budget focuses on projects to hammer out tangible results from substantial preparations for reunification, a pillar of the underlying policy of laying the groundwork for a peaceful reunification,” the ministry said in a press release.

The South-North Cooperation Fund, which takes up the bulk of the ministry’s budget, will rise 11.4 percent on-year to 1.2 trillion won, the ministry said. The fund, created in 1991, is earmarked for inter-Korean economic, cultural and other exchanges.

The planned budget hike reflects Seoul’s will to step up efforts to improve inter-Korean ties and prepare for reunification someday, despite unrelenting military tensions on the peninsula.

The South Korean president unveiled her clear view on future reunification during her New Year’s Day speech this year, calling it a “bonanza” not only for the two Koreas but also for neighboring countries.

On a trip to the former East German city of Dresden in March, Park laid out a three-point proposal to Pyongyang aimed at moving forward her policy of the “Korea Trust-Building Process.”

Meanwhile, Korea’s defense budget for 2015 will increase 5.2 percent from this year due mainly to spending on boosting the military’s defense capacity and propping up the safety and welfare of service personnel.

The Defense Ministry’s budget for next year will amount to 37.6 trillion won ($36 billion), compared with this year’s 35.7 trillion won, according to the government’s new budget plan approved by the Cabinet. It requires parliamentary endorsement.

The 2015 growth rate would mark the highest on-year growth since a 6.2 percent gain in 2011.

To strengthen the military’s combat readiness, 1.36 trillion won will be spent on creating a pre-emptive missile destruction system, the so-called kill chain, and developing Seoul’s own Korean Air and Missile Defense system, according to the ministry.

The ministry also plans to focus on improving the safety and welfare of soldiers following a series of recent accidents in the military, including the death of a solider after being beaten by his comrades. The government plans to raise the monthly salary of its soldiers by 15 percent.

State-of-the-art body armor will be provided to all military personnel serving at outposts in heavily fortified front-line regions facing North Korea. Emergency medical kits also will be supplied to combat troops there, it added.

(From news reports)