By Kim Hyun
SEOUL, Nov. 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has earmarked a budget for large-scale economic aid to North Korea next year despite its policy to withhold any sizable assistance until Pyongyang moves to denuclearize, a government proposal showed Friday.
According to its 2010 budget plan submitted to the National Assembly unification, foreign affairs and trade committee, the Unification Ministry allocated 1.18 trillion won (US$1.02 billion), about the same as the earmarked budget for this year, for inter-Korean relations and exchanges.
"The ministry has reflected the government's policy to continue to proceed with humanitarian projects despite the strained phase in inter-Korean relations," the ministry proposal said.
Broken down to specifics, 616 billion won has been set aside for the possible resumption of rice and fertilizer aid that was suspended after President Lee Myung-bak took office last year. The sum is slightly less than the 718 billion won for this year but remains mostly untouched. The ministry cited the fall of grain prices as the reason for adjustment.
The amount will be worth 400,000 tons of rice and 300,000 tons of fertilizer that had been annually provided to the North over the past decade. But Seoul officials have said they there is no immediate plan yet to resume the rice and fertilizer aid.
The ministry also set aside 18 billion won and 25 billion won to assist North Korea through non-governmental organizations or international agencies like the World Food Program.
For economic projects, including a joint industrial park in the North's border town of Kaesong, the proposed budget earmarks 144.8 billion won, up 17 percent from the previous year.
"Massive economic cooperation projects were considered in preparation for the possibility of progress in the North Korean nuclear issue," the ministry said.
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