The Minister of Unification on Monday afternoon admitted to having no evidence to back up his statement that 70 percent of the money going into the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) has gone to North Korea’s Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) to fund nuclear and missile development.
Hong, speaking at the National Assembly’s Council of Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee said there had been a misunderstanding surrounding his previous remarks and apologized to lawmakers and Korean citizens.
“I’ve said there’s no confirmation about the specific amount (of the money that was sent into the KIC). Then journalists questioned it and I answered that there’s material regarding this,” he said in remarks carried by various media reports.
His statements, he said, were to highlight the MoU’s concerns over the KIC.
Following his explanation, lawmaker Na Kyung-won of the ruling Saenuri Party suggested off-the-record meetings for frank discussions of complicated matters related to Kaesong, but Hong declined.
“There’s no more to say and I’ve explained everything I can provide,” Hong said.
These statements represent a change in Hong’s position. The minister on Friday asserted that there is evidence backing up concerns that the money, including the wages going into the KIC, had been used on weapons of mass destruction. Hong cited “intelligence” as a reason for not unveiling the information.
Following this remark, Hong said on Sunday that 70 percent of the money had been offered to the WPK secretary and North Korea’s notorious Office 39, which is in charge of acquiring foreign currency, and that this money is “used to develop nuclear weapons and missiles,” he said in an interview with the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS).
At a regular press briefing on Monday morning the MoU denied providing the details to back up Hong’s previous claims.
One expert argued that the funds going into the KIC don’t necessarily ensure funding for weapons development.
“The MoU’s claim … comes from the ministry’s lack of understanding of the foreign exchange concentration system of North Korea,” Kim Yeon-chul, a former adviser to Seoul’s MoU during the administration of President Roh Moo-hyun (2003-08) wrote on his Facebook page.
“During the ’70s, if South Korean workers in the Middle East sent payments to Korea in dollars, the money went straight to the Bank of Korea … The profit that the government takes is natural under North Korea’s current system,” Kim said, noting that, were Hong’s remarks on Friday true, it would constitute a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2094.
The most influential newspaper in Seoul, the conservative Chosun Ilbo, urged the government to back up the claims in a Monday editorial.
“Minister Hong should reveal the evidence, the appropriation of the funds to be used for nuclear weapons and missiles, right away,” the paper reads.
After the minister’s remarks Monday afternoon, the MoU told NK News that there’s nothing more to be said.
Featured image: Ministry of Unification
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