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Unification minister denies allegation Seoul pushed to build nuke plant in N. Korea

All News 09:52 February 01, 2021

SEOUL, Feb. 1 (Yonhap) -- Unification Minister Lee In-young on Monday dismissed allegations that the South Korean government attempted to help build a nuclear power plant in North Korea, saying that such claims might be politically motivated.

In an interview with local radio station TBS, Lee flatly denied the speculation that the government of President Moon Jae-in began pushing to build a nuclear power plant in the North after Moon's first summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in April 2018.

"I will say this clearly that we, as the unification ministry, have never discussed the issue of building nuclear plants in North Korea under any circumstances," Lee said.

Lee's remark comes amid brewing political controversy after a local TV station reported that a document about the nuclear power plant idea was among a series of computer files that industry and energy ministry officials were accused of deleting allegedly to cover up their wrongdoing.

The computer file at issue triggered speculation that a document that the South handed to the North to present a broad cross-border economic cooperation vision during their summit in April 2018 might have included an idea for a nuclear power plant.

The file is thought to have been produced in May 2018, about a month after the first summit between Moon and Kim at the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom.

Lee said that the ministry "urgently reviewed" the document of over 40 pages but did not find any information whatsoever related to building nuclear plants in the North.

"From the perspective of a politician, and not a minister, I cannot help but think that it is because of the election," he said, pointing out that the opposition party has often intensified its political offensive ahead of major elections.

On Sunday, Kim Chong-in, the interim leader of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP), called for a probe into the allegation and pressed the government to act quickly to address the suspicions. He earlier called the alleged plan an "act benefiting the enemy."

The energy ministry on Sunday denied the allegation, saying the file was about one of various policy possibilities discussed at a working level and that the government has never attempted to build a nuclear plant in the North.

In this file photo, Unification Minister Lee In-young speaks during a meeting of the inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation council at the government complex in Seoul on Jan. 14, 2021. (Yonhap)

julesyi@yna.co.kr
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