South Korea will use a total of 910 billion won (US$843 million), including private investment, in a package of projects to support residents on five western border islands for the next 10 years since they live under constant threats from the North, the government said Wednesday.
The projects call for the government to improve living conditions for residents on the islands, while beefing up safety measures against future attacks and boosting local economies to create jobs and improving income levels, according to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
Tension along the maritime border has flared up, especially after the North shelled Yeonpyeong Island in November, killing four people, including two civilians. The attack also destroyed dozens of homes and public buildings.
The South Korean government has been intensifying efforts to strengthen safety and other support for residents on those islands.
The islands subject to the support plan are Yeonpyeong, Baengnyeong, Daecheong, Socheong and Udo, all located just south of the maritime border with the communist North. They are areas where the two Koreas frequently engage in skirmishes.
The government approved what it called a "comprehensive development plan" for the five border islands during a meeting of the government committee for supporting the islanders, chaired by Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik, on Wednesday.
The 910 billion won will be used to subsidize living and educational costs of residents of the five islands, fees for shipping daily supplies and building a computer-aided long-distance medical treatment system, the office said.
The government will also help modernize housing, safety as well as water supply facilities for the islanders and build more accommodations to draw tourists, it said.
The government expects the plans, if realized, will be able to create some 6,640 new jobs, the office said, adding that the 78 sub-projects in the plan will be carried out in phases by 2020.
Along with these projects, the government decided to develop the five border islands into a zone symbolizing inter-Korean and world peace while building maritime tourism facilities in Baengnyeong, it said.
"We came to come up with the comprehensive measures helpful to the region as a law for supporting the five islands passed the parliament late last year," a senior official at the PMO said. "The plans will also be of great help in revitalizing the regional economy," he added.