End unnecessary war of nerves

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End unnecessary war of nerves

The factory lines have been stopped at the inter-Korean joint industrial park of Kaesong for 40 days. The industrial complex may lose its physical function in a couple of months if assembly lines are deprived of oversight and activity for much longer. Businessmen are losing hope and patience as they watch their decade-old sweat and investment go down the drain. Yet authorities on both sides of the border continue playing the blame game instead of trying to find a middle ground or a breakthrough in the deadlock. The only surviving and lucrative economic venture between South and North Korea may end up a failure due to an unnecessary war of nerves and pride between Seoul and Pyongyang.

Needless to say, North Korea is primarily accountable for jeopardizing the symbol of inter-Korean economic cooperation. Pyongyang cut off communication lines, restricted South Korean staff’s entry into the complex and finally withdrew all North Korean workers from the park for purely political reasons. It used the complex as bait to gauge the will on inter-Korean relations of the new government led by conservative President Park Geun-hye and victimized it for political purposes.

Nevertheless, Seoul has also been imprudent and rash in its response to Pyongyang’s actions. Its decision to pull out the entire South Korean workforce was partly due to concerns for their safety, but also was intended to teach Pyongyang a lesson. Seoul quickly paid $13 million as demanded by Pyongyang to settle the payment for North Korean workers to bring the last seven South Korean nationals home.

A more responsible government would have bargained hard to protect the interests of South Korean businesses and investors. It also kept secret the fact that Pyongyang offered to allow a visit by a Korean business delegation to move materials out of North Korea and supervise the industrial facility. It’s no wonder South Korean businessmen are questioning the government’s motive behind the pullout.

To reopen the industrial complex, the government must come up with a more detailed and strategic plan. The ministries should not merely follow orders from the president. Authorities must also coordinate policies after consulting with the concerned businesses and then have the unification minister step forward. The president should stand in the background as much as possible. No one wants to see the Kaesong venture collapse. The two Koreas must end the war of nerves and seriously negotiate to seek a solution by leaving politics out of business matters.

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