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Unification ministry mulling giving local governments early approval for inter-Korean projects

SEOUL, April 21 (Yonhap) — The unification ministry is considering giving local governments the go-head for inter-Korean cooperation projects even before concrete deals are signed as part of efforts to further promote cross-border exchanges, officials said Wednesday.

In a meeting with officials from 16 local governments, ministry officials discussed ways to help municipalities expand cooperation with the North, including granting earlier approval for inter-Korean projects.

“I believe inter-Korean exchange and cooperation of the local governments that meet the demand of the people and the regional traits have the potential to create a large space for advancing inter-Korean relations and bringing peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Unification Minister Lee In-young said in his speech before the meeting.

Currently, local governments are required to sign a deal with North Korea before getting approval from the ministry to push ahead with projects.

According to the ministry, the pre-approval system under discussion will allow local governments more flexibility and less uncertainty in carrying out the exchanges, and help jump-start the projects as soon as they strike a deal with the North.

The ministry also discussed ways to include a separate budget in the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund to support local governments that lack the necessary budget for cross-border projects.

“This financial support will help local governments to stably secure funds and increase predictability and sustainability of cross-border exchanges and cooperation,” the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said it plans to further discuss the issue with relevant authorities, including the size of the budget.

The move comes as South Korea is trying to expand cross-border exchanges as inter-Korean relations have stalled amid little progress in denuclearization talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

Reference