[EDITORIALS]Hyundai takes on the North

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[EDITORIALS]Hyundai takes on the North

A three-month struggle between Hyundai and North Korea has come to an end, and the Mount Kumgang tours that were operated by Hyundai are to be resumed. If the stand-off between the two sides had continued, not only would the economic losses have been heavy on both sides, but it would have also cast a shadow over inter-Korean relations. But it is how Hyundai conducted the negotiations with the North this time that is most telling.
The North tried to pressure Hyundai by arguing that the company should reinstate Kim Yoon-kyu, who headed Hyundai’s tourism department but was fired on embezzlement charges. North Korea reduced the allowable number of tourists to Mount Kumgang and then threatened to halt all business with Hyundai. The North then used the strategy of offering the business of conducting tours to Kaesong to another company, in another bid to pressure Hyundai. The judgment by the North was that Hyundai, which had invested a great deal in the North, would in the end yield to pressure.
If Hyundai had indeed bowed to such calculated pressure from Pyongyang, the company would without a doubt have wound up being indirectly controlled by the North. By not bowing to such pressure tactics, Hyundai succeeded in normalizing its Mount Kumgang business.
To achieve this result, there must have been other variables at play besides the determination of Hyun Jeong-eun, the Hyundai Group chairwoman. The government certainly played a role here. Nevertheless, the government needs to reflect on Hyundai’s negotiating attitude. This case proves that there is little logic in the government’s argument that when it comes to negotiating with the North, aggravating it only creates an obstacle to improving inter-Korean relations. Until now, the government has under that pretext accepted the North’s unreasonable demands. The pretext was to appease the North, but in reality it was a wait-and-see policy.
Thus, our attitude was seen only as one of providing everything while submitting to the North’s will. This was seen in a recent incident in which members of the press were obstructed by the North in reporting on the reunion of family members of both sides, the government criticized the press, saying that it should refine its reporting methods. The government needs now to move away from its policy of submitting to the North and instead adopt a resolute attitude. Is it not shameful to hear that the government can’t even match the negotiating power of a mere company?
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