Reports cite high cost of North business

Joong Ang Daily
Limb Jae-un

Days after both Koreas vowed to heighten cooperation, a lawmaker said yesterday in a report that the Kaesong Industrial Complex, the experimental site combining South Korean technology and North Korean labor, has been unprofitable so far.

In addition, the Ministry of Construction and Transportation said in a report yesterday that repairs to the airport on Mount Paektu will cost 280 billion won, or $304 million.

One of the agreements signed at the inter-Korean summit Thursday calls for allowing South Korean tourists to visit the scenic mountain on the Korea-China border.

“In terms of the runway length, Samjiyon Airport can accommodate large airplanes, such as a Boeing 747, but the condition of the airport is bad,” said an official of the construction ministry, who asked for anonymity. The airport, located on a plateau 1,000 meters, or 3,280 feet, above sea level, needs advanced navigation facilities, he said.

Despite the optimistic discussions during last week’s summit, inter-Korean economic cooperation has so far had dismal results, according to a report from Grand National Party Representative Lee Han-koo. Thirteen out of 16 companies operating at the Kaesong Industrial Complex are currently in the red, he said. Their debt is four times higher than their assets, he said. The combined assets of the 16 companies is only 4.5 billion won and their average annual sales is 790 million won.

“The biggest problem of the economic cooperation is that the relevant information has been held back from the public,” Lee said.

Meanwhile, a top European official said North Korea must go through serious reforms to become a viable investment destination for Europe.

North Korea is unattractive for Europe because “the conditions for investment are not safe enough and the regulatory environment is not predictable,” Guenter Verheugen, the EU Industry and Enterprise Commissioner, said in an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday.


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