To every thing there is a seasonIt is not appropriate if our chaebol leaders accompany President Moon Jae-in to Pyongyang next week for his third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Their trip to North Korea will likely offer an unprecedented opportunity to rescue our economy from a deepening slump, not to mention promoting inter-Korean exchanges more actively than ever before. If Moon and Kim agree to open their markets in the summit, our business leaders will likely invest an astronomical amount of money in developing the archaic infrastructure in North Korea in the hope that it will lead to more profits down the road.
But to every thing there is a season. The summit slated for Sept. 18 to 20 should focus on denuclearization of North Korea, which has noticeably slowed. Moon himself said on Tuesday that our government must create strong momentum to achieve complete denuclearization of North Korea and build a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. If so, the president’s top priority should be persuading Kim to take concrete actions such as submission of a list of nuclear weapons or a timetable for denuclearization. South Korea’s corporate leaders can go to Pyongyang after the denuclearization conundrum is solved.
If they already decided to accompany Moon to Pyongyang, his administration must not pressure them to invest in North Korea. No matter how many golden opportunities await them, everything is still uncertain. As seen in the unexpected suspension of the operation of the Kaesong Industrial Complex and tourism to Mount Kumgang, no one knows what will happened to such investment projects due to political uncertainties. In particular, there has been virtually no progress in denuclearizing the North. Who would dare to invest in such precarious circumstances?
Another obstacle comes from the international community. Neither the United Nations nor the United States have lifted sanctions. The Moon administration strives to broaden inter-Korean exchanges, but America takes a firm position on that issue. It was even found that the Pentagon recently planned to humiliate the Kim regime by laying bare its sly violations of UN sanctions. That means that if South Korean companies start to do business with North Korea, it could easily put their names on Uncle Sam’s sanctions list.
If the chaebol leaders really want to go to the North, the government must let them determine whether to invest there. If the situation is ripe, they will rush to North Korea on their own.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 14, Page 34