Ballooning problemNorth Korea seems to have pathetically immature views on the operation and significance of the Kaesong Industrial Complex.
North Korea, taking issue with conservative South Korean civic groups’ distribution of anti-North leaflets, has threatened to shut down the project.
Senior North Korean military officials made an unexpected visit to the complex last week, uttering threatening remarks like, “How long would it take for South Korean companies here to withdraw?”
The comment is obviously yet another round of Pyongyang threats, based on the assumption that South Korea will get so scared that it will somehow find a way to stop the civic groups from floating their balloons containing anti-Pyongyang leaflets.
But Pyongyang is making a big mistake. The Kaesong Industrial Complex is a symbol of the two Koreas’ twinned existence.
While South Korea provides capital and technologies, North Korea provides the labor.
More than 33,000 North Korean workers are employed at the factories of more than 80 South Korean companies operating in the complex. That means, if one family comprises four people, more than 130,000 people have a better life thanks to the complex.
It’s true that South Korean companies can take advantage of the cheaper labor but the benefits are not one-way. North Koreans get fed and Pyongyang receives dollars.
This pilot project can well be a model for future inter-Korean economic cooperation before unification and can also be a good model for North Korea to emulate once its relations with the United States improve and it can initiate market reforms.
But look what the North Korean regime is doing. What it can see only now is that a threat to shut down the Kaesong complex will embarrass the South and help the North to push forward its agenda.
The North had better do the math again and work out who is really going to suffer most should it carry out its warning.
It is truly a pity the regime doesn’t seem to care that the shutdown will damage the welfare of its own people and its own international reputation.
Certainly, there are certain roles South Korea can play to improve the current situation.
It should work harder to persuade civic groups to stop floating their anti-Pyongyang leaflets into North Korean territory, which has led the North to its ill-considered plans.