June 07, 2019 12:33
South Korean manufacturers who had operations in the joint-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex will visit the U.S. next week with plans to reopen the industrial park as an international business zone.
They want to make the complex an international concern that cannot be switched on and off arbitrarily depending on how inter-Korean ties are going.
A staffer at the Korea Federation of SMEs said Thursday, "We will ask U.S. Representative Brad Sherman, who is the head of the Asia-Pacific Subcommittee at the House of Representatives, to consider allowing foreign businesses to enter the Kaesong Industrial Complex."
A 10-member delegation of Kaesong manufacturers will talk to members of the subcommittee next Tuesday.
If American, Chinese, Japanese and other foreign businesses set up production operations in Kaesong, the area could become a multinational zone that delegation believes will shield it from being shut down every time inter-Korean relations worsen.
North Korea withdrew its workers from the complex in April 2013 over a rent dispute, and South Korea unilaterally closed it down in February 2016 after a North Korean nuclear test.
The proposal seems unlikely to develop legs any time soon. The manufacturers do not seem to have consulted the government here, and a Foreign Ministry staffer said, "It is difficult to even predict a reopening of the complex. U.S. and UN sanctions will have to be eased first for any foreign companies to set up operations there."
At present, it is illegal to consign production to North Korean workers or engage in business with companies that hire them. But after North Korea refused to let the manufacturers inspect their equipment, apparently because some of it has been purloined, they believe that a non-political approach is their best bet.
A member of the delegation said, "U.S. and other foreign businesses could take advantage of the Kaesong Industrial Complex as a production base to tap into the Chinese market and use resources in North Korea like rare-earth elements. This will also have the effect of reducing North Korea's economic dependence on China."
North Korea sits on an estimated 20 million tons of rare-earth elements that are used in IT devices. Its economic dependency on China stands at some 93.9 percent.
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