How about a McDonald's in Kaesong?
Opening a McDonald’s in the Kaesong industrial complex could send a “strong signal” to Pyongyang that the U.S. won't invade North Korea, Song Young-gil, head of the Democratic Party (DP) told an international security forum Tuesday.
“My opinion is that reopening the Kaesong industrial complex is a very critical point to building trust between the United States, South Korea and North Korea," Song said during a virtual session of the 2021 Aspen Security Forum.
Song, a former Incheon mayor, continued, “Can you imagine, if a McDonald's store is located at the Kaesong industrial complex, it could be a strong symbolic sign that the United States does not have an intention to invade North Korea.”
Under the Park Geun-hye administration, South Korea withdrew in February 2016 from the industrial complex in the North’s border town of Kaesong, the last big inter-Korean economic cooperation project, in retaliation to Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile provocations.
The moderator of Song's session pointed out that reopening the complex is not a popular view in Washington.
Song replied, “The Kaesong industrial complex has a very essential role in easing tensions between the two Koreas and is a very, very efficient way to change North Korea.”
He noted that “hawkish groups” in the United States and South Korea have stressed the importance of the penetration of outside information into North Korea and “praise” the sending of propaganda leaflets by balloon across the border, He said Kaesong plays a similar role.
Song said that South Korean small- and medium-sized companies had hired about 53,000 North Koreans to work at the now shuttered Kaesong complex, who were a “very good channel” for outside information and a “precious opportunity and open window to communicate” between the two Koreas.
Likewise, he said, closing Kaesong has made Pyongyang “more dependent” on Beijing, adding, “We are very concerned that North Korea will gradually become a subordinate country to China.”
He added that reopening Kaesong would present opportunities for “more collaboration with South Korea and the United States."
Song noted, “North Korea is paranoid and very scared of bombardment by the United States.”
He said that as Pyongyang doesn’t trust mere rhetoric from Seoul and Washington, U.S. investment in Kaesong, such as opening a McDonald's at the complex, could provide a “guarantee” for North Korea.
“North Korea can become the second Vietnam and a pro-American country,” added Song. “It’s up to the United States.”
Vietnam normalized diplomatic relations with the United States in 1995 and is a U.S. ally in deterring Chinese ambitions in Southeast Asia, he pointed out.
In response to Kim Yo-jong’s statement calling for a halt to the upcoming summertime Seoul-Washington summertime military exercise, he called the joint drill “essential” for defense readiness and keeping peace in the region.
Song, however, said he understands North Korea’s concerns, because their conventional army cannot match the South-U.S. military, which is why they are reliant on strategic weapons.
Likewise, he noted the worsening economic situation in North Korea due to Covid-19 blockades, natural disasters and economic sanctions.
Song called for providing to North Korea humanitarian aid, Covid-19 support and health care, which he said is possible under UN sanctions.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]