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PoliticsNorth Korea

South Korea offers North economic aid for denuclearization

August 15, 2022

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol offered Pyongyang economic aid if the country took significant steps towards ending its nuclear program. He has also called for closer ties with Japan.

South Korea President Yoon Suk-yeol
President Yoon Suk-yeol spoke during a ceremony to celebrate South Korea's freedom from Japanese colonial ruleImage: Ahn Young-joon/AFP

South Korea will help to significantly rebuild North Korea's economy if it takes steps toward substantial denuclearization, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said in an address on Monday.

"We will implement a large-scale program to provide food, providing assistance for establishing infrastructure for the production, transmission and distribution of electrical power, and carry out projects to modernize ports and airports to facilitate trade,'' Yoon said, referring to potential aid to Pyongyang. 

"We will also help improve North Korea's agricultural production, provide assistance to modernize its hospitals and medical infrastructure, and carry out initiatives to allow for international investment and financial support," he added, insisting that such programs would "significantly" improve North Korean lives.

Yoon, a conservative politician who took office in May, was expected to take a firmer stance against Pyongyang compared to his predecessor President Moon Jae-in.

Yoon was speaking at a ceremony to mark the end of Japanese colonial rule in the Korean peninsula in 1945, and also urged the two countries to overcome historical disputes for a common future. 

Seeking closer ties with Japan

Yoon said Japan had become South Korea’s partner in tackling threats to global freedom and called for swiftly improving relations with Tokyo based on a 1998 joint declaration between the two countries.

"When Korea-Japan relations move towards a common future and when the mission of our times align, based on our shared universal values, it will also help us solve the historical problems," Yoon said.

While relations between the US allies have been strained over historical disputes like the use of forced labor, and Japan forcing women to work in wartime brothels for its military, and the use of forced labour, Yoon has vowed to improve ties with the country.

Pyongyang blames the South for COVID

North Korea has blamed its southern neighbor for causing the country’s deadly COVID-19 outbreak, an allegation that Seoul denies. 

Last week, North Korea’s state agency cited leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, as saying that the outbreak had started due to leaflets entering the country from South Korea. The propaganda leaflets, which criticize the Kim family ruling the impoverished state, are a sore spot in relations with Seoul.

As relations with the two countries deteriorate, North Korea appears to have escalated preparations for a nuclear weapon test for the first time since 2017.

Both nations have technically remained at war since their 1950-1953 conflict, which ended in a truce, and not a peace treaty.

see/rt (Reuters, AP, Yonhap)