Inter-Korean investment lowest since 2000

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No.09-12-9-1
12/9/2009

Aid to North Korea and investment into inter-Korean cooperative projects by the South Korean government appears to be hitting a record low in 2009, dropping to a level not seen since the year 2000.

According to the South Korean Unification Ministry, between January and the end of November of this year (2009), the government dispensed a mere 6.1 percent of the nearly 1.12 trillion won allocated. Just over 68.3 billion won were spent on cooperative projects between North and South Korea. This is considerably less than last year, when only 18.1 percent (only 231.2 billion won of an allocated 1.275 trillion won) was put to use.

In each year since 2000, the South Korean government has failed to spend all funds set aside for inter-Korean cooperation. In 2000, 81 percent of funds were distributed, while in 2001 that fell off to 56.1 percent, and then in 2002 dropped to 50 percent. In 2003, this bounced up to 92.5 percent, then fell to 65.9 percent in 2004, rose to 82.9 percent in 2005, dropped back to 37 percent the next year, and jumped back to 82.2 percent in 2007. Looking at how the disbursed funds were spent, one can see that humanitarian aid was especially reduced.

Following the North’s nuclear test, rice, fertilizer and other government aid was suspended, while indirect assistance from private-sector organizations was also reduced. This led the government to spend only 0.9 percent (from January through November) of the 811.3 billion won set aside for humanitarian aid in 2009.

Despite the fact that the South Korean government has spent such a small portion of the inter-Korean cooperation budget over the last two years, it has been decided that if there is movement on the North Korean nuclear issue, a budget increase of 190 million won will be sought for inter-Korean cooperation next year.

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