[EDITORIALS]Lots of blame to go aroundConfusion surrounding Hyundai Group’s North Korea tourism projects is increasing. Hyundai said it might give up all its North Korea projects, and North Korea kept pressing Hyundai by breaking off working-level negotiations on Kaesong tourism projects yesterday. In addition, North Korea proposed to Lotte Tours that it run tours to Kaesong. This has all fanned confusion. As the voices of concern over the safety of South Korean investments in North Korea get louder, it is necessary to take countermeasures as soon as possible.
The responsibility for letting things get this bad rests on all concerned parties: North Korea, Hyundai Asan and the South Korean government. The largest obstacle is the unreasonable attitude of North Korea, which is making absurd demands that destroy trust, the basis of business deals. North Korea gave Hyundai exclusive business rights in seven economic cooperation projects, including “the development and operation of major tourism sites” in North Korea, and accepted $500 million in return. The North agreed with Hyundai in July to promote Kaesong and Mount Paektu tour projects. Nevertheless, it now discards contracts and agreements it signed with Hyundai with the excuse that the group refused to reinstate an executive dismissed on charges of corruption. Who will believe North Korea’s words in the future? If the North persists with such absurdities, there will be no South Korean company willing to invest there.
Hyundai Group lacked transparency when it promoted business with the North. Instead of checking contracts at working-level negotiations, it gave more weight to the words of powerful figures of the North like Kim Jong-il. As a result, it suffers when the North changes its attitude.
The same applies to the government. Hyundai’s North Korea projects, including the Mount Kumgang tours, have received government funds. The government is responsible for supervising their operations. It boasted when the projects went well, saying, “They are the offspring of the sunshine policy,” but backed off when they were in trouble, saying, “They are private business deals.”
Consequently, the government and Hyundai must acknowledge that the recent troubles are the result of their being duped by the North. We must change our way of thinking so that inter-Korean cooperation projects are no longer dictated by the North.