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Cost of inter-Korean summit: 5.4 billion won

May 02,2018
The summit between the two Koreas’ leaders on Friday cost the South Korean government an estimated 5.4 billion won ($5 million), an official with knowledge of the planning told the JoongAng Ilbo on Monday. Major expenses included building renovations, the welcoming ceremony, the dinner banquet and promotional costs.

The budget was relatively modest considering the summit was a one-day event held at the unassuming border village of Panmunjom. The previous two inter-Korean summits - in 2000 and 2007 - were held in Pyongyang, and although North Korea covered most of the costs as the host, South Korea spent around 2.6 billion won each time on food and travel.

South Korea completed the Peace House, where the main talks were held, in 1989, and the two countries have occasionally used the building for high-level and working-level talks, but Friday was the first time a summit took place there.

Largely neglected through decades of military tension on the border, the village of Panmunjom was hardly a suitable location for a meeting between two heads of state. With infrastructure dated and convenience facilities lacking, the South Korean government sought to renovate the Peace House and its surrounding area before the high-profile summit. The carpets on all three floors of the building were replaced as well as the wallpaper and lights. Fans were left running all day next to charcoal and onions to remove the smell of fresh paint.

Landscapes of Mount Kumgang in North Korea and Mount Bukhan in South Korea were installed in the Peace House. New tables and chairs, including an oblong conference table that is a symbolic 2,018 millimeters (80 inches) wide, were installed.

The bathroom was repaired to accommodate the particular needs of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Many countries are careful not to leave traces of their leaders’ urine and excrement behind to keep information about their health under wraps. North Korea is no exception. Arrangements were made to facilitate waste collection by the North Koreans in case Kim visited the Peace House’s bathroom, but it has not been confirmed whether Kim actually used the facility or opted for a temporary installation that the North Koreans brought with them.

The footbridge on which the two leaders took a stroll and had a private conversation also saw major renovations, including a paint job.

Particular attention was paid to the banquet, where all 10 courses were laden with political symbolism. Croaker and sea cucumber were sourced from Gageo Island, hometown of former President Kim Dae-jung, who initiated the first inter-Korean summit in 2000. Rice from Bongha Village, hometown of former President Roh Moo-hyun, who attended the second inter-Korean summit in 2007, was used in bibimbap (mixed rice) served during the dinner.

Other expenses included the cost of renting out a space inside Kintex, a convention center in Goyang, Gyeonggi, to set up a press center for local and foreign journalists.

Money for the summit came from reserve funds at government agencies involved in the event, including the Blue House; the Ministry of Unification, which handles relations with North Korea; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

BY JEONG YONG-SOO [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]