[EDITORIALS]A milestone in Jeju

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[EDITORIALS]A milestone in Jeju

North and South Korea painstakingly reached agreements yesterday morning after negotiations that continued through the night at the 12th round of inter-Korean economic cooperation talks.
An agreement on “North-South Cooperation in Light Industry and Natural Resource Development” was adopted, although it will become effective only under certain conditions. Nine points were agreed, including more talks on mining sand and gravel at the mouth of the Han River and establishing a warning system for flooding of areas near the Imjin River.
Despite the disappointment about the cancelled test runs of the Gyeongui and Donghae lines, Seoul was determined to keep inter-Korean economic cooperation alive and Pyongyang saw practical benefits in being more cooperative.
But the agreement on supplies for the North’s light industries is hard to see as a complete one, because it will be effective only after “necessary conditions have been prepared,” which means test runs of the two inter-Korean railways.
Other conditions have to be met for the test runs to be conducted successfully. South Korea will then provide $80 million worth of raw material for making soap, shoes and garments in the North.
The agreement, which was reached after almost a year of negotiations, has introduced new deals that at least begin to acknowledge global standards, such as applying interest rates and market prices in commerce. This could be a milestone in inter-Korean economic cooperation.
Seoul usually provided unilateral assistance to Pyongyang, but now that aid is to be repaid with other raw materials. Trading items that each side needs, with prices replacing barter, is a meaningful step in inter-Korean economic cooperation.
The two delegations also agreed on a joint development project in the mouth of the Han River, which has been off-limits because it was in the Demilitarized Zone. This is also very significant. If it is carried out properly, South Korea’s chronic problem of shortages of sand will be solved, and the river channel will be deepened so damage from flooding will decrease. It is, of course, hard to forecast whether this project will be implemented or not, because military security measures are a prerequisite.
To carry out these agreements and bring out meaningful results, Pyongyang will have to faithfully implement them. That is another prerequisite.

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