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(2nd LD) Seoul to provide North with cross-border communication equipment

All Headlines 15:54 October 21, 2009

(ATTN: CORRECTS figures in lead; UPDATES with more details in para 5)
By Tony Chang

SEOUL, Oct. 21 (Yonhap) -- Seoul plans to provide North Korea with optical cables and other equipment worth 850 million won (US$721,000) to modernize an inter-Korean military communication line, the Unification Ministry here said Wednesday.

Ministry spokesperson Lee Jong-joo said the two Koreas agreed to upgrade their military line, running across the border along the East Sea, which has been malfunctioning.

"We encountered much difficulty in communications due to the worn-out equipment, experiencing some 30 cases of miscommunication just last month," Lee said at a press briefing.

Seoul will provide the needed equipment to the North, and both sides will begin equipment maintenance and upgrades at their respective sides starting Oct. 28, Lee said.

The upgrades will be completed in one to two months and are expected to cost between 2.1 billion won to 2.7 billion won, according to the ministry.

The military line near the East Sea is the main communication channel used in exchanging lists of people who travel in and out of the Kaesong industrial complex in the North and others who travel across the border by land.

"The two Koreas will respectively carry out the line upgrades at their sides and later connect them at the military demarcation line. We should be able to complete the operation before the severe cold approaches," Lee said.

The two Koreas had reached a tentative agreement to upgrade the communication line in 2007, but the project was deferred after their relations soured following the inauguration of Seoul's conservative administration last year.

odissy@yna.co.kr
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