South Korea stiffens import rules on N. Korean products

UPDATE: Contrary to earlier reports (below) that South Korea was set to begin importing sand from the DPRK, it turns out that they are tightening import restrictions on goods from the DPRK.  According to Yonhap:

The government has tightened rules on imports of sand, pine mushrooms and anthracite from North Korea, the Unification Ministry said Tuesday, in an apparent move to keep a close eye on cash flows into Pyongyang.

The three items have been allowed into South Korea only with a declaration to the customs office, but the toughened rules now require their importers to receive approval from the unification minister, said ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo.

“Inter-Korean trade volumes of pine mushrooms, sand and anthracite have rapidly increased recently,” Lee said in a press briefing, without specifying the hike rates.

“This revision was prepared in consideration of two things — transparency of inter-Korean trade and keeping the import volume at a proper level,” she added.

Seoul has so far required approval from the unification minister, only when excessive imports of a certain item are feared to harm local producers. Those three items are not considered to fall into that category.

North Korean sand has been rumored to be linked to the country’s military. The concerns prompted Seoul to ban local sand importers from traveling to North Korea after it launched a long-range rocket in April, and such trips are not still allowed.

Last year, US$73.35 million worth of sand, $14,93 million of pine mushrooms and $25.1 million of anthracite were imported from North Korea. Sand was the largest imported item, while anthracite was 9th and pine mushrooms 18th.

With the tightened entry rules, the government can “make a judgment on the site about whether each business is appropriate and get sufficient information about them, thereby enhancing the transparency of inter-Korean trade and its soundness,” the spokeswoman said.

Read the full Story here:
South Korea stiffens import rules on N. Korean products
Yonhap
10/27/2009

ORIGINAL POST: RoK looking to import sand from DPRK (again)
According to Yonhap:

South Korea has suspended sand imports from North Korea since April, when the North test-fired a long-range rocket. Seoul had banned sand importers from traveling to the North.

South Korea first brought in North Korean sand for use at local construction sites in late 2002, as part of an inter-Korean accord signed by leaders of the two Koreas in 2000.

“The government is reviewing the resumption of imports of the North’s sand, given strong requests from businesses and the overall state of current inter-Korean relations,” an informed government official said, requesting to be unnamed.

The South Korean government is expected to decide soon whether to lift the travel ban on sand importers as well, according to officials.

Seoul reportedly placed the travel restriction on sand importers due to suspicions that payments for sand shipments were pocketed by military authorities in the North.

Read other stories about the sand trade here.

Read the full story below:
Seoul mulls resuming sand imports from N. Korea: sources
Yonhap
Tony Chang
10/22/2009

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