Moon Jae In’s official NK policy release leaves hope for inter-Korea agricultural cooperation

Moon Jae In’s North Korea policy was announced last week in a publication released by the South Korean Ministry of Unification. The roughly 30-page booklet, titled “Moon Jae In’s Policy for the Korean Peninsula: Peace and Prosperity on the Korean Peninsula,” lays out a plan for achieving peaceful coexistence and common prosperity. The goals of the policy are divided into three major points: 1) Resolution of the North Korean Nuclear Issue and Establishment of Permanent Peace, 2) Development of Sustainable Inter-Korean Relations, and 3) Realization of a New Economic Community on the Korean Peninsula. 
According to the booklet, this will be accomplished using 4 main strategies: 1) A Gradual and Comprehensive Approach, 2) Simultaneously Addressing the Issues of Inter-Korean Relations and the North Korean Nuclear Threat, 3) Ensuring Sustainability through Institutionalization, and 4) Laying the Foundation for Peaceful Unification through Mutually Beneficial Cooperation.
The policy bases its strategy on five main principles: 1) A Korea-led Initiative, 2) Strong Defense, 3) Mutual Respect, 4) Interaction with the People, and 5) International Cooperation. 
The government plans to consult with experts across diverse fields to execute the policy. It is planned to launch as a series of small initial steps separate from international sanctions, including an offer of humanitarian aid and agricultural cooperation.
The first step will be to sign an agricultural cooperation agreement with North Korea.
The two sides met in Kaesong on August 18, 2005 to discuss cooperation in the agricultural sector, which resulted in South Korea providing aid starting in 2006 in the form of new farming technology, modern seed production, and storage treatment facilities. South Korean agricultural scientists and experts also visited the North to help with and consult on various topics, including: animal husbandry; silkworm breeding; growing fruits, vegetables, and cash crops; land and ecology protection; building tree nurseries; forest disease and pest control; and use of forest resources.
Cooperation in the field of animal husbandry was expanded again after the two sides signed the First North-South Agricultural Cooperation Working-Level Agreement on November 5, 2007. Work then began on a 5,000-head pig farm in the Goeup area of Kangnam, Pyongyang. The North Koreans completed work to provide the land, electricity, water, and labor force for the facility, while the South Koreans loaned equipment and supplies for the new facilities. The loan held a yearly 1% interest rate and was to be paid back over 30 years. 
On December 14 and 15, 2007, the two sides again met for the First Meeting of the Subcommittee for Cooperation on Inter-Korean Agriculture and Fisheries. There, they agreed to begin work on facilities for seed production and processing as well as oil resource storage, hoping to finish within a year. They pushed ahead with collaboration on many of the agricultural areas discussed in the first meeting in 2005, but strained inter-Korean relations over time caused some to fizzle out while others were able to continue.
The North continues to seek assistance in agriculture as it desperately needs to solve its food production problems and feed its population. The South also sees a restart of agricultural cooperation as an opportunity to recover some mutual trust between the two sides.
A number of North Korean authorities and businesses have indicated a desire to resume agricultural cooperation where they left off, in the same geographical areas as before. Between 2000 and 2004, cooperation with the South on a collective farm in Samilpo near Kumgang Mountain allowed the North Koreans to make significant progress in terms of agricultural technology and capabilities. The North now sees the Mount Kumgang-Wonsan ‘tourist belt’ area as playing a central role in potential future cooperation. South Korea ceased operations at the Mount Kumgang resort in 2008.
Another example is the Songdori collective farm near the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), which operated between 2006 and 2008. This project was able to take advantage of the overland trade route and customs infrastructure built up through cooperation established by the KIC, and smooth communication between North and South also arose as a result.
Moving forward, an increase in human exchanges in future cooperation is likely to be more beneficial than the provision of material support alone from South Korea. Person-to-person collaboration will do more in the long run to build inter-Korean trust and integration. Humanitarian NGOs are seeking systematic reforms to allow smooth progress on inter-Korean agricultural projects, and are planning for the future by carefully assessing conditions. If the government supports efforts to improve the situation, we can expect the resumption of agricultural cooperation in the near future.
*Views expressed in Guest Columns do not necessarily reflect those of Daily NK.
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