|▲ Ha Tae Kyung, the president of Open Radio for North Korea|
Doing business in the Kaesong Industrial Complex and elsewhere in North Korea will be a tough proposition for as long as the Kim Jong Il-Kim Jong Eun system remains, and businesses which invest in North Korea in the interim should not anticipate big gains, believes Ha Tae Kyung, the president of Open Radio for North Korea.
However, Kaesong could be a possible vehicle for integration, according to a parallel analysis.
“Almost no companies have turned a profit in more than ten years of North-South economic cooperation. Chinese companies are much the same,” Ha asserted in his speech, adding, “The Kaesong Complex looks to be in an uncomfortable situation, as if walking alone on the tightrope of inter-Korean economic cooperation.”
“In this situation under Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Eun, there is almost no chance of improvement,” he went on.
Not only that, but Ha also said he thinks it could take more than ten years for the Kim Jong Eun regime to reach a position of any real security, and added that “During this time, if enterprises intend to make investments in North Korea, they will have to exercise caution upon caution.”
Profit should not, Ha emphasized, be the aim of investments. However, on a positive note, he said that economic connections can and should take a leading role in North Korea’s future.
“Changes in Serbia, Croatia, Egypt etc were possible because of the enthusiastic support of enterprises and wealthy individuals,” he pointed out, suggesting that in the North Korean case, “Since businesses cannot give direct support to North Korean freedom movements, organizations like the Freedom Foundation need to be established to give indirect support to democratization activities.”
Meanwhile, Professor Kim Yong Ho of Yonsei University pointed to the Kaesong Industrial Complex as one of the easiest places for change to occur, saying that it could turn out to be the start point for reunification.
“50,000 North Korean people are working in the Kaesong Industrial Complex. If we include their families, it’s like having 200,000 people in the Kaesong Complex’s sphere of influence,” Professor Kim explained. “As with the way to achieving German Unification, from East Germany through Hungary to West Germany, Kaesong too can play the role of a channel for influence.”
Elsewhere, giving the opening remarks at the event, Minister of Unification Hyun In Taek said that he thought unification would be more readily feasible once the average income of North Koreans rose to approximately $3,000.
“When North Korean peoples’ incomes get to around $3,000 they will be able to absorb the social impact and start on the stairs to secure integration. Since the difference between the economies of East and West Germany pales in comparison with those of South and North Korea, it is impossible for us to achieve rapid economic integration,” Hyun asserted.
Today’s discussion occurred at a seminar in Seoul, “Developing Unification-oriented Inter-Korean Relations and the Response of Business”.