Firms in North say they’re not bothered by test

Joong Ang Daily
Kim Hyung-soo
7/6/2006
 
However concerned politicians may be about North Korea’s missile test, many Korean companies that deal with the reclusive state are saying it has had minimal impact on business. So far.

Hyundai Asan, which does much of its business in North Korea ― including the Mount Kumgang tour and operating the Kaesong industrial complex ― said it was business as usual. Hyundai Asan said only 50 people canceled their trip to Mount Kumgang yesterday, while 700 people went as planned.

“As the government has already mentioned, private businesses are not subject to restrictions because of the North Korean missile problem,” a Hyundai Asan official said.

The South Korean company stressed that although it has faced problems in the past because of developments in the North, its businesses there have never been forced to stop.

“Business in North Korea should be consistently maintained, as it could be a solution that could solve the strained relationship between the two Koreas,” the official said.

Hyundai Asan said they were more concerned that the North’s recent actions could end up reducing the number of tourists in summer, the high season for travelers.

ShinWon, which manufacturers clothing at Kaesong industrial complex, said the plants there were operating as usual.

“The only difference was that our headquarters in Seoul called to ask what the atmosphere was like in Kaesong,” said a South Korean ShinWon worker at Kaesong.

Despite the firms’ apparent sangfroid, experts were quick to point out the possible long-term consequences. “[The launch] could reduce the credibility of the Korean economy and affect foreign investments,” said an official at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “The future of economic cooperation between the two Koreas has become more uncertain.”

“Poor security is the economy’s biggest negative factor,” said Lee Dong-eung at the Korea Employers Federation. “At times like this society needs to remain calm and unified.”

Though many foreign investors who visited Kaesong last month stressed that politics and business should be kept separate, it remains to be seen how the missile launch will affect foreign sentiment toward the industrial complex. 

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