FKI seeks ‘mutual profit’ with North

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FKI seeks ‘mutual profit’ with North

The Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) said on Tuesday that inter-Korean economic cooperation should move away from the current framework, which is confined to unilateral support and pressure from South Korea, and shift its focus to mutual profits.

The lobby group representing conglomerates in South Korea has revised its key principles on North-South economic cooperation for the first time since 1995.

“Times have changed in the past two decades as China has emerged as the second-largest economy in the world, the areas bordering North Korea, China and Russia are being developed and a market economy has surfaced in North Korea,” said Park Chan-ho, executive director of FKI, during a seminar on Tuesday at the group’s headquarters in Yeouido, southwestern Seoul. “The currently stalled economic partnership between South and North Korea is not desirable for both countries; the South needs to find new growth momentum, and the North is trying to innovate and open up its market. It is time that new principles are set up in tandem with the changes.”

The new guiding principles of the group are: harmony and progress in the conversation between the two governments; economic exchanges that help both sides; North Korea-led economic development in the North; an industrial structure that combines the strengths of the industries in both countries; and procurement of support from and participation by neighboring countries, with the goal of establishing a Northeast Asian economic bloc.

The principles proposed by the group in June 1995 included harmony with the South Korean government’s investment guidelines and progress in inter-Korean dialogue; economic cooperation centered around nonstrategic goods; refraining from causing excessive competition; step-by-step progress with a long-term perspective; and developing of the strengths of the industries in both countries.

Choi Soo-young, a scholar at the Korea Economic Research Institute, proposed, as one of the detailed measures, stepping up inter-Korean business relations by having national business groups open offices in the other’s capital. The candidate from South Korea could be the FKI, he said, and in the North, the DPRK Economic Development Commission. In May, the FKI announced it was considering establishing a Pyongyang office without providing further details. The lobby set up a committee last August to research post-reunification economic scenarios for the peninsula.

Improving economic cooperation between the two Koreas is necessary, he said, because North Korea’s trade reliance on China has reached 90 percent after the South Korean government imposed economic sanctions on the North on May 24, 2010 in the aftermath of the North’s torpedo attack on a South Korean warship.

Kim Young-soo, head of tourism and economic cooperation at Hyundai Asan, said that economic exchanges between the two Koreas could lead to better relations, adding that the resumption of a tourism program at Mount Kumgang in the North could be one step. July 11 marked the seventh year since tourism to the scenic mountain was suspended after a South Korean tourist was killed by a North Korean soldier in July 2007. Hyundai Asan, the tour program’s operator, has lost over 1 trillion won ($874 million) cumulatively since then.
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