Seoul's top policymaker on North Korea pledged Friday to start filling a fund aimed at preparing for reunification with the North, calling on the South Korean people to also take part.
Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik, on a trip to the United States, said he plans to launch a campaign to raise funds for the account whose target amount is 55 trillion won (US$49.4 billion).
"Each citizen should make even a small contribution based on the emotions they feel when singing the song 'Our Wish is Reunification,'" Yu said, referring to a popular Korean folk song at a meeting with Korean residents and members of the National Unification Advisory Council in New York. "I hope that our people's will toward reunification will unite in the process."
"As the minister in charge, I will make personal contributions, though I am not sure how much," he added.
Yu's comments came shortly after he confirmed that his ministry is working on a bill to create a unification fund based on the estimates of an outsourced report. The size of the fund is expected to meet the minimum cost of reunification with North Korea.
The minister said he will work toward setting up the account no later than early next year, saying he is confident that the project will succeed. He noted, however, that the government should provide the seed money for the fund.
Yu took office in September on a pledge to exercise flexibility toward North Korea, raising hopes of a change in the tense inter-Korean relations that followed Pyongyang's two deadly attacks on the South last year.
He is the first South Korean unification minister to make an official trip to the U.S. since 2005. (Yonhap News)