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Ruling party drawing up new reunification policy

South Korea’s conservative ruling party said Tuesday it will set up new policies that actively prepare for reunifying with North Korea, as the communist state suffers from deepening food shortages and political instability.

Although it would not openly admit it, the conservative Lee Myung-bak government in Seoul has been increasing measures preparing for sudden collapse of the Kim Jong-il regime in Pyongyang.

North Korea, which relies mostly on outside assistance to feed its impoverished population of 24 million, has been facing deepening isolation after attacking a South Korean warship and a border island last year.

Its ailing leader Kim is also moving to hand over the regime to his youngest and inexperienced son Jong-un, adding to the political instability.

The ruling Grand National Party said it will seek measures such as setting up a joint ecology village within the demilitarized zone with the North, helping Pyongyang join international organizations and allowing shipment of humanitarian aid to North Korea at all times.

Discussed during the party’s vision committee meeting, such plans will be finalized by party leaders later this month, party members said.

At the end of World War II, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel into the Soviet-backed North and pro-U.S. South, a separation cemented after the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a truce rather than a permanent peace treaty.

South Korea, Asia’s fourth-largest economy, would have to shoulder extensive costs to improve the communist North’s poor living conditions and infrastructure should the two Koreas be rejoined, analysts say.

President Lee proposed in August last year detailed measures to prepare for the financial burden and changes to be entailed by reunification, including a “unification tax” plan envisioned to start preparing for the estimated $1.3 trillion Seoul is anticipated to shoulder to reunite with Pyongyang.

By Shin Hae-in (hayney@heraldcorp.com)
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