S. Korea's 2020 budget for inter-Korean cooperation rises 9 pct
SEOUL, Dec. 12 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's budget for cooperation projects with the North in 2020 increased 9 percent on-year, the unification ministry said Thursday, despite a stalemate in cross-border projects amid heightening tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
A total of 1.2 trillion won (US$1 billion) has been set aside for the inter-Korean cooperation fund next year, which takes up the bulk of the unification ministry's total budget, it said.
Of the total budget for inter-Korean projects, 489 billion won was set aside for economic cooperation -- such as reconnecting and modernizing railways across the border, 127.5 billion won for forestry cooperation and 12.6 billion won for peaceful use of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, according to the ministry.
As part of efforts to turn the DMZ into a global peace zone, the government plans to allow its citizens to make individual visits to the truce village of Panmunjom in the DMZ by the first half of next year. The area has been accessible only to group tours.
Still, it is unclear whether South Korea will be able to spend the budget to promote inter-Korean relations amid little progress in denuclearization negotiations between the United States and North Korea.
Pyongyang has been ramping up pressure on Washington to come up with a new proposal by the year-end to move the stalled talks forward, hinting that it could otherwise resume testing long-range missiles.
"The budget reflects the inter-Korean agreements ... and our will to improve the relations," a ministry official said, noting the fund is similar to reserve money that can be spent after having consultations with the North.
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