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S. Korea approves relief fund for firms hit by severed inter-Korean economic cooperation

All News 11:54 January 12, 2018

SEOUL, Jan. 12 (Yonhap) -- The government has decided to provide a total of 18.3 billion won (US$17.2 million) in relief to South Korean companies affected by years of suspended inter-Korean economic cooperation, the Ministry of Unification said Friday.

The government approved the budget Thursday in the latest meeting of the South and North Exchange and Cooperation Promotion Council.

About 1,000 companies that had been doing business with or had invested in North Korean economic projects will each receive up to 40 million won in financial support, according to the ministry's statement.

The latest decision will benefit companies affected by South Korea's "May 24" ban on inter-Korean transactions, imposed in 2010 under the Lee Myung-bak government after North Korea's deadly sinking of a South Korean warship in March of that year, as well as the 2008 suspension of the two Koreas' joint tourism business at North Korea's Mt. Kumgang. The tourism project was suspended after a South Korean tourist was shot dead by a North Korean soldier during a tour around the mountain.

It is the first government decision to financially support companies that suffered as a result of the two particular events. After South Korea shut down the joint inter-Korean factory park in the North Korean border town of Kaesong in 2016, the government provided financial aid to South Korean companies that had factories in the industrial complex.

Many South Korean businessmen invested in inter-Korean joint economic projects that were launched under late liberal President Kim Dae-jung's policy of engagement with North Korea. Those projects were later shut down as inter-Korean ties soured under succeeding administrations.

The latest decision is aimed at "helping ease companies' financial difficulties and laying the foundation for the resumption of South-North economic cooperation," the ministry said in the statement.

Also approved in the Thursday meeting was a 3.3 billion-won fund for publishing a Korean language dictionary with North Korea and an 8.8 billion-won fund to run an operating committee for the suspended Kaesong factory park, according to the statement.


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