According to Yonhap:
South Korea said Friday it will extend 20 billion won (US$19.2 million) in loans to companies that have been in financial trouble for years due to the suspension of their businesses with North Korea.
The decision came four months after South Korean investors called for special low-interest loans to help ease their financial pinch following the shutdown of their businesses.
South Korea has suspended a tour program to Mount Kumgang since 2008 when a female South Korean tourist was shot dead by a North Korean soldier near the mountain resort on the North’s east coast.
Seoul’s move dealt a heavy blow to South Korean companies that invested in the North’s mountain resort, including Hyundai Asan, the inter-Korean business arm of Hyundai Group.
North Korea has since repeatedly called for the resumption of the tour program, which served as one of a few legitimate revenue sources for the cash-strapped country.
South Korean businessmen involved in projects in North Korea suffered further setbacks in 2010 when Seoul slapped sanctions on Pyongyang over the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship blamed on the North.
Under the sanctions, South Korea has suspended inter-Korean projects and banned new investment in the North, except for their joint factory park in the North’s border city of Kaesong.
The unification ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said it expected the latest extension of loans to help ease financial difficulties of the companies.
South Korea has extended special loans worth 62.6 billion won ($60.1 million) to more than 230 local companies involved in cross-border projects with North Korea in recent years.
This week, the North called on South Korea to lift the sanctions imposed on Pyongyang in retaliation for the sinking in March 2010 that killed 46 South Korean sailors.
South Korea has called for, among other things, the North’s admission of its involvement in the sinking in return for lifting of the sanctions, though Pyongyang has refused to take responsibility for the deadly attack.
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S. Korea to extend 20 bln won to firms with ties to N. Korea