About the Author
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
South Korea’s Ministry of Unification (MOU) is planning research projects on possible bilateral and multilateral cooperation with North Korea in a variety of fields, including electricity production, Seoul said this week.
The announcement, carried on the unification ministry’s official website, said the government would outsource the project, which will research the current situation of the North’s electric power industry.
“It is necessary to establish policy alternatives relevant for future inter-Korean electricity cooperation,” the MOU said in the proposal, which was released on Tuesday.
The ministry said the policy should be made “based on understanding and analyzing the real condition of the electricity and relevant policies and the assessment of the North’s capacity for the industrial development.”
The MOU, in particular, is asking researchers to analyze progress on inter-Korean and multilateral energy cooperation, and to propose a “strategy to promote them step by step.”
Examples of energy cooperation given include “support for restoring the equipment of major thermal power stations and for renovating the overall generating units and transmission and distribution networks in North Korea.”
Researchers are also being asked to provide methods for calculating a budget for the projects, and to investigate how North Korean electricity policy has changed since Kim Jong Un took power.
This includes examining the expansion and maintenance of power plants, as well as all announcements and reports related to electric power production and supply and demand.
The report must also include predictions and prospects for the future of the DPRK electricity industry.
Citing a lack of basic data available, the unification ministry said it was necessary to understand the electricity supply and demand “in detail,” due to its influence on the overall national economy.
“A precise understanding of North Korea’s power supply and management system (status of all power plants, power distribution diagram and among others) is needed.”
Criteria such as equipment capacity, the amount and efficiency of electricity generation, and the level of obsolescence of each power plant will be assessed.
So, too, will the degree of the North’s interest in new renewable energy.
The MOU plans to allocate KRW50 million (USD$47,032) to the project, and will select the subcontractor between April 30 and May 4.
Meanwhile, the unification ministry has also commissioned a project researching “ways to cooperate with North Korea through international organizations and the form of multilateral cooperation.”
Subcontractors are being asked to identify ways in which the DPRK can cooperate with international organizations including UNICEF and WFP, according to a notice uploaded on the MOU official website last week.
The MOU is asking subcontractors to “make a concrete proposal on multilateral exchanges and corporations including the institution of a third country.”
The ministry said researchers should find “feasible” ways of cooperation with Pyongyang which will not violate international sanctions on North Korea.
Fields suggested include the environment, and the proposal asks for “concrete business plans and examples.”
KRW 30 million (USD$28,261) is to be allotted to the six-month research project, which will begin in May. Registration is ongoing.
The South Korean government in September last year approved plans to fund USD$8 million in humanitarian aid to the North via UNICEF and WFP, though the money is yet to reach the North.
Edited by Oliver Hotham