Business sector hopes for changes

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Business sector hopes for changes

Hopes for a resumption of inter-Korean economic cooperation rose after the historic summit Friday.

Shin Han-yong, who chairs the committee for emergency measures for the Kaesong Industrial Complex’s tenant companies, said Friday that operations at the complex could be normalized in two months at the earliest if the two Koreas decided to allow it to reopen.

Meeting with reporters in Seoul while the two leaders from Seoul and Pyongyang were meeting in Panmunjom, Shin said his committee will establish a task force after the summit ends to prepare for the resumption of operations.

“Economic cooperation, including the reopening of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, was not a key item on the summit’s agenda, but I would like to remain optimistic,” Shin said. “Although it depends on industries, normalization would be possible in a matter of two months. The high-tech sector may take around six months.”

Shin said he will ask Korea’s Unification Ministry to allow him to check the shuttered facilities in Kaesong and expressed hope the government would say yes.

No business figures joined the South Korean delegation for the Friday summit, largely because the economic sanctions on North Korea by the United Nations remain valid and talking about economic cooperation was seen as premature.

During the first and second inter-Korean summits that took place in Pyongyang, in June 2000 and October 2007, heads of business lobbying groups and chaebol leaders accompanied the Korean president.

Park Yong-maan, chairman of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Doosan Infracore, was the sole businessman attending the post-summit banquet Friday evening.

The lobbying group representing large businesses released a statement on Friday that expressed hope for the restoration of inter-Korean economic cooperation.

“The business sector will spearhead the move to pioneer a new era of economic cooperation when the situation matures,” read the statement. “We hope that the era of tension and conflict ends and a new era of peace and coexistence will begin.”

The chamber is considering direct communication with North Korea’s chamber of commerce on future business cooperation for the first time since the Roh Moo-hyun administration, when the South Korean organization contacted the body through the International Chamber of Commerce.

The Federation of Korean Industries (FKI), another business lobbying group, also welcomed the summit.

“We wish the summit will become a cornerstone of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and world peace,” said the FKI in a statement. “Also, the summit will serve as a turning point that will relieve the Korean Peninsula’s geopolitical risks, thus revitalizing the economy.”

The organization vowed to “do its best” in stepping up inter-Korean economic cooperation and international relations for a “new economy on the Korean Peninsula.”

Sohn Kyung-shik, chairman of the Korea Employers Federation and CJ Group, said Thursday the summit would not only resuscitate inter-Korean economic cooperation but also help all of Northeast Asia.

Among local enterprises, Hyundai Asan is most interested in preparing for the resumption of inter-Korean businesses. The company ran exclusive tours to Mount Kumgang, which were suspended in 2008, and was heavily involved in the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

“We expect a substantial discussion of inter-Korean cooperation when the mood is right, following the South-North summit and subsequent summit between the United States and North Korea,” said a spokesman for Hyundai Asan.

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