The Kaesong agreement must be renegotiated

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The Kaesong agreement must be renegotiated

The Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) agreement should be renegotiated because, under the current agreement, the KIC disproportionately benefits the North Korean regime while offering few benefits to South Korea. The North Korean authorities collect a lot of money from South Korea for the industrial complex, including taxes, rent payments and wages.

This money can be used to help Kim Jong-un maintain power and bolster North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Moreover, South Korean taxpayers provide the funding for the energy and infrastructure utilized by the KIC, as well as the subsidies that are used to help struggling South Korean businesses in the park whenever North Korean authorities disrupt business due to their provocations. Finally, there’s little or no evidence that the KIC is helping to “change” or “open up” North Korea, since the North Korean government keeps the complex literally fenced off from the rest of the country. The North Korean government continues its hostile provocations toward South Korea, and it even directly collects the wages that should be paid to the North Korean workers.

Every year since the complex was established, the North Korean government has reaped about $90 million in wages, rents, fees and taxes, according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics. This provides much needed hard currency to a regime that has constantly provoked South Korea with massive, economically damaging cyberattacks, naval and artillery attacks, missile tests, nuclear tests and other dangerous escalations. These provocations all require funds that North Korea desperately needs but struggles to acquire due to the leaders’ insistence on maintaining a defunct economic model for their own selfish gain while brainwashing the people to believe that North Korea’s “enemies” are truly to blame for their economic hardships. Therefore, it’s peculiar that the South Korean government, whether liberal or conservative, insists on maintaining the KIC and providing funds to the North Korean regime, which then utilizes those funds to attack and endanger South Korea.

Perhaps one of the most troubling aspects about the April 2013 shutdown of the industrial park is that it appears to have been predetermined by Kim Jong-il before he died. Indeed, a party cadre from Pyongyang told the Daily NK that Kim Jong-il was worried that the complex “would cause a growing number of workers to harbor feelings of interest and longing for South Korean society.”

Ultimately, the South Korean taxpayers deserve more for the money they spend to supply the complex with the power and infrastructure it needs to keep running. A renegotiated KIC agreement should ensure that the money the North Korean government earns will be reinvested in additional economic projects that provide jobs for North and South Koreans, and the North Korean workers must receive their wages directly. If the South really wants the KIC to open the North and improve its economy, the South Korean government needs to achieve this through a legally binding contract, not by simply hoping that North Korea will change.

*Lee Hyeon-seo A North Korean refugee living in Seoul and an undergraduate student at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

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