South Korea's previous liberal government was aware that North Korea had diverted money received from South Korea through the joint factory park to weapons programs, the prime minister said Friday.

"As far as I know, the government has been aware" of Pyongyang's diversion of money, dating back to the Roh administration, said Hwang during a parliamentary interpellation session.

He was referring to liberal President Roh Moo-hyun, who was in office from 2003 to 2008.

Hwang did not elaborate on exactly when the liberal government was aware of the money diversion.

Roh met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang in 2007 during the second summit between the two Koreas.

South and North Korea opened the factory park in the North's western border city of Kaesong, four years after Roh's predecessor, Kim Dae-jung, held a landmark summit with the North's Kim in Pyongyang in 2000.

The two former liberal presidents sought reconciliation with North Korea for a decade.

Hwang said that South Korea launched the factory park to try to induce changes in Pyongyang, though North Korea diverted the money for its nuclear and missile programs as well as for luxury goods and various campaigns to extol the achievements of its ruling family.

The issue of money diversion came to the fore in the South after South Korea shuttered the industrial zone in response to North Korea's recent nuclear test and long-range rocket launch.

Pyongyang has expelled all South Koreans from the joint factory park, putting an end to the last remaining economic cooperation project between the two Koreas.

Earlier this week, President Park Geun-hye strongly suggested that most of the US$560 million South Korean firms provided in cash to North Korea for the factory park ended up in North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

More than 120 South Korean firms provided the cash directly to the North Korean government, instead of its workers, creating a loophole for the diversion of the money to North Korea's leadership.

Jeong Se-hyun, who served as South Korea's pointman on North Korea from 2002 to 2004, rejected the North's alleged money diversion, saying he has "never heard of it."

Repeated calls to Jeong's two immediate successors -- Chung Dong-young and Lee Jae-joung --- seeking comment went unanswered on Friday.

Source: Yon Hap News