By Koh Byung-joon
SEOUL, June 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is pushing to revise a law governing inter-Korean exchanges in a way that allows North Korean firms to do business in the South as part of efforts to further promote cross-border exchanges and peace, the unification ministry said Monday.
Ministry spokesperson Yoh Sang-key stressed, however, that the envisioned revision is nothing more than upgrading an already existing regulation into a formal law and does not in any way mean that the government is trying to abruptly speed up cooperation with the North against global sanctions.
Yoh made the remark in response to a local newspaper report that the government is trying to revise the South-North Exchange and Cooperation Act in such ways, accusing the government of seeking such active economic cooperation with North Korea despite global sanctions banning such contact.
"The regulations with regard to economic cooperation (with the North) in the envisioned draft are nothing more than upgrading the things specified in an existing legal notice into legislation," Yoh told reporters during a regular press briefing.
"We determined that exchanges and cooperation between the South and the North will contribute to improving inter-Korean relations and advancing peace on the Korean Peninsula," he added. "I would like to say that we do not intend to use the law revision as an opportunity to abruptly speed up inter-Korean relations."
Last week, the ministry announced its plan to revise the law enacted in 1990 in a bid to expand the "scope" of cooperation and provide more autonomy for municipalities to execute cross-border projects.
The move comes as South Korea is trying to expand cross-border exchanges as inter-Korean relations have been almost stalled amid little progress in denuclearization talks between Pyongyang and Washington and constraints by global sanctions on the communist state.
Included in the ministry's draft for the law revision is to reduce the range of inter-Korean contact subject to regulations calling for mandatory reporting to authorities.
Also under consideration is to make it mandatory to get Cabinet approval for any move to restrict or ban a project with the North, while providing legal grounds that would make it possible to grant help to companies suffering from damage caused by their involvement in inter-Korean economic cooperation.
The government had collected opinions on the envisioned law revision until recently. It plans to submit the revision bill to the National Assembly by the end of this year.
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