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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
The South Korean government on Wednesday approved two bills to spend more than KRW3.3 billion (USD$2.93 million) on the renovation of the Mount Kumgang resort, reunions of separated families, and on the establishment of a joint liaison office in Kaesong.
The two plans were passed at the 294th session of the Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Promotion Council earlier in the day, the Ministry of Unification (MOU) announced.
Seoul and Pyongyang at Red Cross talks in June agreed to hold reunions of families separated by the Korean War at Mount Kumgang between August 20 and 26 on the occasion of the country’s National Liberation Day.
The Moon administration will spend KRW 3.225 billion (USD$ 2.86 million) to renovate facilities of Mount Kumgang resort and proceed with the reunion event of families divided since the Korean War.
Wednesday saw the unification ministry say two-thirds of the first bill will be spent on the event, in which 100 individuals from the North and South are expected to participate.
The rest will be allotted to the repair of facilities at Mount Kumgang, underway since July 9 and scheduled to be finished by August 15.
Seoul is also set to spend KRW86 million (USD$76,241) on the renovation of facilities for a planned joint liaison office at the now-shuttered Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC).
June saw a South Korean delegation examine the facilities at the KIC, concluding that “many parts” of the area needed refurbishment.
The unification ministry said on Wednesday that Seoul would use the office to “achieve inter-Korean dialogue on a permanent basis and promote exchange and cooperation.”
In the process of fulfilling the clauses of the April Panmunjom Declaration, the unification ministry said the South will “continuously maintain close cooperation with relevant organizations and the international community considering situations including sanctions on North Korea.”
The unification ministry on Tuesday also said the Moon administration would lay the groundwork for economic unification “in stages, taking international sanctions framework on North Korea into consideration.”
An official at the unification ministry who wished to remain anonymous said Seoul will push ahead with “New Economic Map Initiative of the Korean peninsula considering the North’s measures for denuclearization, the improvement of the North-U.S. relations, among other things.”
Pyongyang-run media last week criticized the Moon administration for not swiftly pushing inter-Korean economic cooperation projects forward quickly enough, and condemned Seoul for raising the issues of international sanctions and cost.
When asked on Tuesday if the DPRK had formally complained about Seoul’s raising the issue of international sanctions, the unification ministry official said the North Korean side is “well-aware of the circumstances.”
Wednesday also saw the unification ministry say both sides will soon be discussing follow-up measures to recent inter-Korean agreements and that Seoul and Pyongyang will implement the Panmunjom Declaration “without setbacks.”
As part of plans to boost railway cooperation, Seoul and Pyongyang in mid-June agreed to conduct a joint inspection of the junction areas of the Gyeongui and Donghae line on the peninsula’s west and east coast, and to begin a joint on-site survey of the former on July 24.
The two Koreas have also agreed to conduct an on-site visit to forest disease and pest control area this month.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU)