South will give money directly to North Korea

Update: the money went missing.

South Korea criticizes North Korea for failing to disclose how aid was used
Herald Tribune

South will give money directly to North Korea
Joong Ang Daily

Lee Young-jong and Ser Myo-ja

Although South Korea does not allow cash to be given directly to North Korea, it made a deal of its own.

The two countries announced Saturday that Seoul would give Pyongyang cash to buy video conference equipment. A South Korean official said yesterday the amount will be $400,000.

North Korea will use the money to set up video conference calls between families separated during the Korean War, according to a joint statement issued Saturday by the two countries.

The South Korean government has strictly banned humanitarian groups ― as well as all residents ― from giving cash to the North due to concerns the money could be spent for other purposes.

“We decided to assist the North to smoothly resolve the separated family issue,” the official said, adding that the government will thoroughly monitor the spending of the money and the use of the equipment.

The cash payment agreement was first made at a Red Cross meeting in June 2006, but never publicly announced. The money was not exchanged because North Korea conducted a missile test the next month, temporarily freezing inter-Korean relations.

After progress in the recent six-party talks designed to make North Korea nuclear-free, South Korean Red Cross officials pledged again on Saturday at a meeting at a Mount Kumgang resort to give Pyongyang the money, the official said on condition of anonymity.

According to the joint statement, the two Koreas agreed that video conference call reunions will be expanded. The two Koreas also agreed a video conference call reunion center will be built in Pyongyang, separately from the reunion center under construction at Mount Kumgang, and that Seoul will provide construction material and equipment. The material and money will be released at the end of March, the agreement said.

Neither the joint statement nor the press release specified the amount of money, but the Seoul official said it will be $400,000. The construction material to be provided to the North is worth another $3.5 million, he said.

The South Korean government was unable to give the video conference call equipment, such as liquid crystal display monitors and computers, directly to the North because of United States regulations banning the export of dual-use goods to North Korea. Under the United States export administration regulations, strategic goods that include more than 10 percent of United States-made components or technology, are banned for export to state sponsors of terrorism, which include North Korea.

According to the official, South Korea advised the North to purchase the items from China with the cash. Washington could make an exception to the export ban, presumably at Seoul’s request, but it would take time to do so.

In addition to the cash, the $3.5 million worth of goods, such as trucks, construction materials, air conditioners, heaters and cables, will be provided to build a video conference call center in Pyongyang.

At the Red Cross talks, the North also agreed to resume the construction of the reunion center on Mount Kumgang on March 21. The two Koreas began the construction in August 2005, but the work stalled last July. The buildings are about 30 percent complete.

Last week’s Red Cross meeting was scheduled for only one day, for about two hours. Due to the North’s persistent demands for cash and materials, the talks went on for a second day, the government official said.


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