Cash delivered to North for video reunions

Joong Ang Daily
Lee Young-jong and Ser Myo-ja

South Korea hand-delivered $400,000 in cash to North Korea yesterday for Pyongyang’s purchase of video communication equipment. The North will spend the money to buy computers and display screens to reunite families separated for more than a half century by the demilitarized zones through video conference calls.

Two South Korean Red Cross officials boarded a cargo ship in Incheon for Nampo of North Korea Thursday morning. They carried a suitcase containing 40 bundles of one hundred, $100-dollar bills. The ship arrived in North Korea yesterday morning.

According to Red Cross officials, the cash was handed over to their North Korean counterparts at the port. “We told the North Koreans to inform us of the specific spending of the money,” an official was quoted as saying, adding that he received a receipt from the North Koreans for the cash.

The two Koreas’ Red Cross societies agreed last year that the South will fund the equipment for high-tech reunions and the promise was reaffirmed in March. South Korea was unable to provide equipment directly to the North because of U.S. regulations banning the export of dual-use goods to the North. Under the U.S. export administration regulations, strategic goods that include more than 10 percent of U.S.-made components or technology are banned for export to state sponsors of terrorism.

The money was from the inter-Korean cooperation fund. The Unification Ministry wired it to the South Korean Red Cross bank account and informed the Bank of Korea about taking the large sum of foreign currency out of the country. The money had to be hand-delivered because North Korea has had trouble accessing the international financial system since its funds were frozen at the Banco Delta Asia.

“It is sad that the North Koreans do not have a proper bank account that we can wire money to,” a Roh administration official said. “It shows the unfortunate reality of North Korea as an outsider of the international community.”


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