[EDITORIALS]A breakthrough, to a pointThe inter-Korean economic talks that came to a close yesterday yielded 12 measures that command our attention. Most important is the agreement to combine natural resources and capital from both Koreas and push for joint business projects. This is a breakthrough.
The South will provide the raw materials needed to produce the clothing, shoes and soap that the North urgently needs. Meanwhile, North Korea will allow the South to invest in developing the North’s natural resources, such as zinc and coal, while providing the resulting products to the South.
Separately, apart from the measures agreed to in the economic talks, the government has unveiled its “important proposal” to the North ― an aid plan that mainly addresses the North’s energy needs, provided the nuclear crisis is resolved.
Inter-Korean economic cooperation, and the South’s aid to the North, are undergoing fundamental change. In the past, it was “cooperation” in name only; in truth, it was one-sided support. But now we have reached the point where the South can receive needed goods from the North, and both sides can benefit economically. This is very encouraging.
The agreement to open a new office in Kaesong in September to channel investment in the North is also very significant. Previously, South Korean citizens who wanted to do business with the North had to meet with North Koreans in China or some other third country. Now they can do so with support from both governments, without such inconveniences. Both governments can now engage in broader trade and discuss investment matters in depth.
It does appear as though these agreements will spur economic cooperation and help ease the tensions on the peninsula. But for this to be truly achieved, North Korea cannot violate agreements as it has in the past. In addition, the North must make sincere efforts to lower tension in the military realm. For this to be accomplished, the South Korean government needs to consider the use of economic cooperation as a bargaining chip.
The government’s “important proposal” should be linked with the freezing and dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear programs. If the government believes that the North will offer reciprocal measures only after the South gives it what it wants, then no solution to the nuclear crisis will be possible.