South Korea earmarked 1.1 trillion won (970 million U.S. dollars) for the cooperation fund with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) for next year, Seoul's unification ministry said Monday.
Budget allocated for the inter-Korean cooperation fund, which was launched in 1991 to boost inter-Korean exchange and economic cooperation, amounted to 1.1 trillion won in 2019, up 15 percent from 962.4 billion won (850 million U.S. dollars) for this year.
The double-digit increase came amid the rising peace mood on the Korean Peninsula, caused by the three summit meetings between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and top DPRK leader Kim Jong Un in 2018 alone.
Set aside for humanitarian issues was 572.4 billion won (510 million U.S. dollars), while 504.4 billion won (450 million U.S. dollars) was earmarked for economic cooperation between the two Koreas. For the social and cultural exchanges, 20.5 billion won (18.2 million U.S. dollars) was allotted.
Budget to modernize and eventually connect railways across the inter-Korean border jumped to 428.9 billion won (380 million U.S. dollars) next year from 268 billion won (240 million U.S. dollars) this year.
The two sides launched an 18-day joint inspection on the DPRK rail lines in late November for the railway connection project.
For the inter-Korean forestry cooperation, including the modernization of tree nurseries and the joint prevention of forest diseases and pests, 113.7 billion won (100 million U.S. dollars) of budget was allotted for next year, up from 30 billion won (27 million U.S. dollars) for this year.