Seoul (AsiaNews) The South Korean government has decided to increase aid to the North next year as part of a new project that supports North Korean babies and pregnant women, the Ministry of Planning and Budget said Tuesday.
According to the 2006 budget proposal submitted to the Ministry, 56 ministries and central administrative bodies have requested a total of 203.5 trillion won (US$ 182 billion, 161 billion) billion for next year's budget, a rise of 4.4 per cent from a year before.
Of the total, the unification and foreign affairs sector requested 2.86 trillion won (US$ 2.6 billion, 2.3 billion) for next year's budget, an increase of 42.7 per cent from a year ago.
The increase is due to a new five-year plan designed to support North Korean babies in which the government will spend 30 billion won (US$ 27 million, 24 million) next year and 550 billion won (US$ 495 million, 437 million) over the next five years.
The ministry said that in preparation for unification, the government decided to provide food, medical supplies and medical equipment to North Korea.
It is noteworthy that the decision by the South Korean government was taken at a time in South Korea's history when the country has the lowest birth rate in the world.