South Koreans Outraged at Lavish Cost of Diplomacy with North

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

The government of South Korea downplayed the high financial cost of diplomacy with North Korea on Wednesday as conservative lawmakers argued they are spending excessively to appease the communist regime.

On Tuesday, the President Moon Jae-in’s cabinet approved a motion for parliamentary ratification of the Panmunjom Declaration expected to cost around $418 million to implement.

“The estimate was calculated mostly in consideration of projects that have been shaping up such as modernizing and connecting railways and roads; cooperation in forestry, social and cultural sectors; along with reunions of separated families,” a ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

Opposition lawmakers have protested that the Moon government has not yet achieved any concrete steps towards denuclearization despite the lavish spending.

“We are jumping ahead although there has been no progress in denuclearization,” one opposition lawmaker told Chosun Ilbo. “It just looks like the government is trying to appease [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-un ahead of the next summit [in Pyongyang].”

“Is it right to only include the budget for next year when it is estimated to cost many trillions of won to modernize railways and roads in North Korea?” added Rep. Kang Seok-ho of the opposition Liberty Korea Party.

Others also claimed that the government is hiding the true long-term costs of North Korean diplomacy, which they argue are likely to snowball.

“The government only announced the preliminary cost that will be needed right away while hiding the total cost,” said Bareunmirae Chairman Sohn Hak-kyu.

The Blue House denied criticism that they were manipulating the figures, saying they would only provide a one-year estimate due to the unpredictability of inter-Korean relations.

“Costs [associated with carrying out the Panmunjom Declaration] are subject to change depending on inter-Korean relations, so we asked the Assembly to look at the expenses that we can expect for next year as a first step,” a government official said. “Beyond the year 2019, it is difficult to estimate costs because of the unpredictable nature of the inter-Korean relationship.”

On Wednesday, South Korea’s sports minister, Do Jong-hwan, revealed he is considering making a proposal to North Korea to co-host the 2032 Summer Olympics to help further unify the two countries and achieve regional peace.

“It’s a proposal of hosting the events in Seoul and Pyongyang,” he said. “We heard that China is going to make a bid to host the World Cup. But we want to make a proposal of co-hosting the event with Asian neighbors like North Korea, China, and Japan. In this way, we can maintain the current atmosphere of peace and can connect Northeast Asia peace with peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

Moon has responded to criticism by asking the parliament to “stop pursuing partisan interests for the greater cause for the entire nation.” His efforts to contain North Korea have caused anger among some South Koreans who view the current diplomatic offensive as a form of appeasement against the world’s most brutal communist regime.

Moon’s efforts appear to have been rewarded by the country at large after his party won a decisive majority in South Korea’s recent parliamentary and gubernatorial elections.

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