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Seoul seeks to ease regulations on inter-Korean exchange


The government will push to ease regulations on inter-Korean exchange and contact with North Koreans, the Ministry of Unification said Tuesday. The changes, which will be included in the revision of the Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Act, are thought to be aimed at aiding the Moon Jae-in administration’s plans to lay the foundations for inter-Korean projects.

The revision, which will be submitted to the National Assembly within the year, will allow South Koreans to contact North Koreans after informing the authorities of related plans, without receiving approval from the minister of unification. In addition, when it is considered impossible to file a report before making contact with North Koreans, those involved will be allowed to file the report afterward.

In cases of unplanned contact, or contact among families separated by the Korean War, South Koreans involved will be exempt from filing a report. At present, South Koreans planning to contact North Koreans are required to file a report, and the unification minister holds the right to reject the report if it is considered that there is risk to national security.

The revised act will also state local governments as principal actors in inter-Korean projects, allowing local governments to operate inter-Korean projects.

The revision will also allow corporations and organizations permitted to pursue inter-Korean projects to set up offices in the North.

“There is no precedence of setting up offices in the North. (The change) is providing legal basis for a time when inter-Korean relations improve,” a Unification Ministry official said.

The revision also includes clauses that provide various support measures that a certified as exemplary organizations in inter-Korean trade.

The changes come as President Moon pushes to re-engage North without involving the US and international community.

With US-North Korea talks failing to produce results, Moon has stressed a number of times that Seoul could seek ways to cooperate with the North within the boundaries of international sanctions.

In his address on May 10, Moon said that the two Koreas should shift towards projects that do not violate sanctions or those that could receive exemptions as US-North Korea dialogue is unlikely to produce results in the foreseeable future.

By Choi He-suk (