By Yoon Sojung and Jung Joo-ri
Photos = Jeon Han
Video = Kim Sunjoo
Seoul | April 11, 2018
“We all wish to get back to the Gaeseong Industrial Complex where the sound of machinery running fills the area, day and night,” said Chairman Shin Han Yong of the Corporate Association of the Gaseseong Industrial Complex.
Shin is one of those who strongly welcomed news about the 2018 Inter-Korean Summit, which will be held later this month. This is because he wishes that the summit can move forward the day he can go back to the factory in the North Korean border city of Gaeseong.
“All the businesses that used to operate at the Gaeseong factories were so overwhelmed with joy after hearing the news that the Inter-Korean Summit would take place amid the rapid progress we’ve seen in the reconciliatory mood on the Korean Peninsula on the occasion of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.”
South Korean businesspeople from a total of 124 firms, including Chairman Shin, were deported from Gaeseong on Feb. 11, 2016, by North Korea. Companies faced bankruptcy. Their accumulated debt was estimated at KRW 1.5 trillion.
“After the closure of the complex, all the participating businesses underwent times of difficulty. We moved our factories to local provinces or overseas and worked hard to normalize the management process, but it wasn’t easy,” said Shin.
Still, Shin cannot have big expectations for the upcoming Inter-Korean Summit because the issue of the Gaeseong Industrial Complex is not included on the summit agenda.
“I’m still holding out hope,” he said. “Unlike the two previous Inter-Korean Summits that took place in the final periods of the previous governments, this summit is to take place within the first year of the Moon Jae-in administration after President Moon won the election with a pledge to a ’new economic map for the Korean Peninsula.’”
“On the agenda for the 2018 Inter-Korean Summit are denuclearization, the establishment of peace and improving inter-Korean relations. This means that denuclearization is a prerequisite for everything,” he said.
“I hope the agenda to improve inter-Korean relations can help restart inter-Korean economic cooperation and exchanges in the private sectors,” Shin said.
“If the improvement in the inter-Korean ties can support the 2018 Inter-Korean Summit, the Pyeongyang-Washington Summit and the six-party talks, this will bring peace to the Korean Peninsula, ending the long-lasting pain of separation for more than 70 years,” he said, dubbing the upcoming Inter-Korean Summit as the “most desperate chance.”
“If improved inter-Korean ties can help promote exchanges in the private sector, businesses that used to operate in Gaeseong will come back and work their machines again, which have been turned off for more than two years, so that the sounds of machinery running can be heard all across Gaeseong,” he said.
“Based on our experiences in inter-Korean business cooperation, we can play a leading role in helping President Moon realize the initiative to create a New Economic Map on the Korean Peninsula,” Shin added.