S. Korea sets aside 40.2 billion won for DMZ peace park project
SEOUL, Sept. 26 (Yonhap) -- The government set aside 40.2 billion won (US$37.3 million) in next year's budget proposal for a project calling for the establishment of a peace park in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on the border with North Korea, according to the draft budget Thursday.
The DMZ peace park project is one of President Park Geun-hye's outreach projects to North Korea. She first unveiled the vision during her visit to the United States in May and formally proposed the project on August. But questions persist about its possibility due to tensions with Pyongyang.
The DMZ is a four-kilometer-wide buffer zone separating the two Koreas. The two sides still technically remain in a state of conflict after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, and their border is one of the world's most heavily fortified.
According to the government's budget proposal, which is subject to changes and requires approval from the National Assembly, the unification ministry's total budget was set at 1.34 trillion won, up 20.9 billion won or 1.6 percent from this year's budget.
Of the 40.2 billion won set aside for the peace park project, 24 billion was designated for use in removing landmines strewn throughout the DMZ, while the rest was allocated for research and other purposes, according to the budget proposal.
The budget for humanitarian assistance to North Korea fell slightly to 680.2 billion won from this year's 724 billion won. But officials said the decline is because of a fall in prices for rice and fertilizer and the government plans to keep the amount of aid at this year's level of 400,000 tons of rice and 300,000 tons of fertilizer.
The budget for the joint industrial complex in the North's border city of Kaesong was set at 115.6 billion won, up 25.4 billion won from this year. The factory park resumed operations earlier this month after nearly five months of suspension due to heightened security tensions.