July 21 (UPI) -- A high-profile North Korean defector recently elected to South Korean parliament said Tuesday Pyongyang has received more than $920 million in economic loans from Seoul, citing official government data.
Thae Yong-ho, the former North Korean diplomat who fled Pyongyang's Embassy in London in 2016, said Seoul began to provide loans to the North after 2000, when then-President Kim Dae-jung met with then-North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
Thae said the South must demand the loans be repaid. The only instance of North Korean repayment occurred in 2008, when the regime repaid debts with $2.3 million in iron commodities, Thae said, Yonhap reported Tuesday.
The lawmaker said in his analysis South Korean unification ministry data indicates Seoul has spent more than $920 million on loans to North Korea.
From 2000 to 2007, Seoul loaned $724 million for North Korea food shipments. From 2002 to 2008, Seoul used about $134 million of taxpayers' money on loans for railroads in the North, where infrastructure has been described as rundown in poverty-stricken areas.
"North Korea has no intention of repaying the South," the lawmaker said. "The South must stop pouring funds into the North and demand debt repayments."
Thae, a conservative with the main opposition United Future Party, has been critical of President Moon Jae-in's engagement with Kim Jong Un.The lawmaker has also disagreed with the administration on real estate policy. Seoul has raised capital gains and other taxes on residential real estate as prices continue to climb in Seoul, the densely populated capital.