- The Washington Times - Monday, February 17, 2003

From combined dispatches
LONDON North Korea plans to build four nuclear power plants, each bigger than the Yongbyon plant at the center of a stand-off with the United States, Britain's Sunday Telegraph reported.
In Seoul, meanwhile, South Korea's Hyundai Group acknowledged yesterday that it gave $500 million to North Korea, and that the money probably helped stage a summit between the two Koreas in June 2000.
The Telegraph quoted North Korea's director of energy, Kim Jae-rok, speaking in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, as saying that the planned power plants could produce up to 200 megawatts of power 40 times the output of Yongbyon.
"Desperate measures" are needed to tackle the country's heat and lighting shortages, it quoted Mr. Kim as saying in an interview with BBC Radio reporter Mike Thomson. "This will enable us to meet the urgent need for electricity supplies in our country."
The crisis over North Korea's nuclear program has been simmering since October, when Washington said Pyongyang had acknowledged pursuing a program to enrich uranium in violation of a 1994 accord, under which it froze its nuclear program in exchange for two atomic power reactors and economic assistance.
Since then, North Korea has expelled IAEA inspectors, withdrawn from the treaty that aims to curb the spread of nuclear weapons and said it was ready to restart the mothballed Yongbyon reactor capable of producing plutonium for bombs.
Last week the International Atomic Energy Agency declared North Korea in breach of U.N. safeguards and sent the issue to the U.N. Security Council.
The Sunday Telegraph said Mr. Kim insisted North Korea was not producing nuclear weapons at its existing facilities and would not use the planned new plants to do so.
The nuclear crisis has sidelined efforts by South Korean President Kim Dae-jung to improve relations between the two Koreas, an effort that won him a Nobel Peace Prize after he traveled to Pyongyang for a historic summit on June 13 to 15, 2000.
Hyundai chief Chung Mong-hun said yesterday in Seoul that his company made the covert $500 million payment to the North to win exclusive business rights in the isolated communist country. But, he acknowledged, "I think this has helped in some part stage the South-North summit."
Mr. Chung also said in a televised news conference that he brokered the summit by setting up a meeting between government officials from the two Koreas in March 2000. "I asked the North side about the possibility of a summit, and the North also recognized the necessity," he said.
He said "government understanding and cooperation" was an inevitable result of the money transfer because of the special nature of relations between the two Koreas, divided since 1945.
Mr. Chung's comments came days after Mr. Kim acknowledged that his government condoned an illegal $200 million payment from Hyundai to North Korea four days before the summit.
Mr. Kim apologized to the nation but said the payment was to promote peace. Mr. Kim, who leaves office Feb. 25, has pushed a so-called "sunshine" policy of engaging North Korea, an overture that helped him win the 2000 Nobel.
Lim Dong-won, Mr. Kim's former intelligence chief and current adviser on North Korea, said his agency helped Hyundai send the money. Mr. Chung, however, did not say how the other $300 million was delivered.
The deal between Hyundai and North Korea had been secret until last month, when it came into the open after opposition parties called for an investigation into suspected bribes.
The Hyundai chief apologized for the secrecy, but said it was to "avoid unnecessary competition and disputes with Japan, Germany, Australia and the United States, which showed interest in North Korean projects."
Complaints about the deal first emerged when the main opposition Grand National Party claimed the money, borrowed from a state-run bank, was a bribe for the summit. The party is calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the case.
The scandal has been a blow to Mr. Kim's reputation and his reconciliatory policies for Pyongyang, now strained by the growing dispute over the North's suspected nuclear weapons development.
Despite criticism that his "sunshine" policy has given too much to the North while receiving too little, Mr. Kim insists that engagement is the only viable way to ensure peace on the Korean Peninsula.
North-South ties have vastly improved under Mr. Kim, but South Korean law still labels North Korea as an "anti-state entity," and it is illegal to provide cash to the North without formal government approval.
Hyundai projects in the North include tourism, railways, an industrial park, a sports complex, dams, an airport, telecommunications infrastructure and power generation. And Mr. Chung said his group would consult with other companies in pushing ahead with investments there.
"We have been promoting inter-Korean economic projects with the belief that balanced growth on the Korean Peninsula would help movement toward reunification," he said.

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