Oct. 14 (UPI) -- An economic cooperation program with North Korea has seen low returns on investment, a South Korean lawmaker said Monday.
Shim Jae-cheol, a lawmaker with the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, said the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund, under the management of the Export-Import Bank of Korea, has transferred $933 million to the reclusive North since 1991, Yonhap reported.
Citing data from the bank, Shim said low returns on South Korean public funds are a cause for concern.
"Large sums of money that make up the inter-Korean cooperation fund, created from public funds, government donations and taxes paid for by the sweat of South Korean citizens, are not showing returns," said Shim, a member of the National Assembly's Planning and Finance Committee. "This is a serious problem."
Shim criticized policy, saying, "The government should not arbitrarily manage the funds like spare change rolled up in their pockets."
South Korea has provided funds to the North for a variety of programs. Export-Import Bank data show Seoul donated $720 million in funds between 2000 and 2007 to go toward food aid. For "materials and equipment," Seoul transferred $130 million in 2002. In 2007, South Korea spent $80 million for "raw materials" for industrial use in the North.
North Korea has received the funds, then repaid Seoul in exports of iron and other products, worth $2.4 million, in December 2007 and January 2008, according to Yonhap.
Pyongyang has not repaid Seoul the remaining balance at a time when it is calling on ordinary North Koreans to meet grain production targets.
Rodong Sinmun said in statement Monday the nation "must harvest well" and that 10 tons of grain must be produced for every 10,000 square meters of land.
The World Food Program had said in its August forecast the food situation in North Korea is expected to worsen in the remainder of 2019.