Inter-Korean projects can’t be rushed: Forum

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Inter-Korean projects can’t be rushed: Forum

Park Yong-maan, chairman of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, proposed on Tuesday a new body jointly run by the public and private sectors devoted to inter-Korean economic cooperation. Top priority should be unifying the different economic fundamentals of the two Koreas, he said.

“Expectations for joint economic partnership have escalated so rapidly that some appear to be approaching in an excessively hurried manner,” he said at a conference on inter-Korean economic cooperation hosted by the chamber, a lobbying group representing large and small corporations in Korea. “You need to avoid getting into the game without sufficient information and judgment.”

The conference was attended by 350 businessmen and experts.

Park said calm and organized planning to form a basis for proceeding with the cooperation is needed until sanctions on North Korea are scrapped. A public-private joint council will have to contemplate standards, protocols and corporate regulations -- measures to unify economic fundamentals, he added.

Experts in attendance agreed that a “hasty approach” to inter-Korean cooperation is risky, even though the atmosphere for cooperation has improved.

Kim Seok-jin, a researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification, said companies in Korea should keep in mind that a “sizable amount of time” will be required for forming a basis for economic cooperation with North Korea.

“Some [South Korean] companies assume they might be able to enter North Korean retail market right away,” he said, “but it actually requires time for preparations such as coming up with related regulations on taxation, administrative permission and real estate as well as establishing an administrative process.”

Kim went on to say that South Korean firms run the risk of getting ahead of themselves and actually breaking international sanctions.

“It is highly likely that actual projects such as a resumption of the operation of the Kaesong Industrial Complex will take more time,” he said.

Lee Jung-chul, a professor of political science and international relations at Soongsil University, said South Korean companies lack a “realistic perception” of the lifting of sanctions and when actual cooperation will be possible.

“It would be mistaken to think that preparing right now will be okay because sanctions will be gone anyway if North Korea and the United States agree,” he said.

Yang Moon-soo, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, said the South Korean business community should start thinking about strategies to secure a competitive edge over China, Japan and the United States, which are expected to make forays into North Korea if it starts opening up its market.

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