South powers up support for Kaesong

Joong Ang Daily
Ser Myo-ja

Amid the ongoing six-party talks and criticism that inter-Korean economic projects have helped North Korea finance its nuclear arms program, South Korea celebrated a cross-border power cable connection yesterday for the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

A ceremony to mark the connection took place yesterday inside the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas. Also yesterday, the nation’s top North Korea policymaker said the economic cooperation programs are crucial to maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula.

The Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee said yesterday that 48 electricity towers have been built to link transformer substations in Munsan, South Korea, and Kaesong, North Korea. The power cables will provide up to 100,000 kilowatts of electricity for South Korean factories located at the joint industrial complex.

The 51.2 billion won ($54.5 million) project was launched in April to improve South Korea’s electrical supply to the industrial zone in the energy-starved North. South Korea currently provides 15,000 kilowatts of electricity through utility poles.

The construction of a transformer substation in Kaesong has not been completed, so the supply has not yet begun. The committee aims to start using the new cables by the end of March.

Lee Jae-joung, the new unification minister, defended South Korea’s inter-Korean economic projects at a presidential council lecture yesterday. “They actually benefit us more than North Korea,” Mr. Lee said, emphasizing the symbolic importance of the Kaesong Industrial Complex and Mount Kumgang tour program.

He also dismissed criticism that the North financed its nuclear bombs with the South’s cash. “The admission fees for Mount Kumgang and the wages for North Korean workers in Kaesong were no more than $20 million all together,” Mr. Lee said at a meeting with a standing committee of the presidential National Unification Advisory Council. “That is only 1.4 percent of the North’s foreign currency earned through exports and overseas laborers.”

He also said the severed dialogue between Seoul and Pyongyang, which was halted after the North Korean missile tests in July, should be restored as soon as possible. “I believe the situation will be resolved in the near future.”


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