DPRK takes Chinese investors to Kumgang

According to Yonhap:

North Korea invited a group of Chinese investors to its joint factory park with South Korea early this month, raising suspicions about its intent amid strained inter-Korean relations, an official here said Tuesday.

About 20 business executives, led by senior officials of North Korea’s state investment group, visited the industrial complex in the border town of Kaesong near the west coast on May 1, a Unification Ministry official in Seoul said.

More than 110 South Korean firms operate there to produce labor-intensive goods by employing 42,000 cheap but skilled North Korean workers. The joint park, which began operating in 2004, is considered the last remaining major symbol of reconciliation between the divided Koreas.

“We’re not clear about what the North is trying to achieve by inviting the Chinese investors,” the Unification Ministry official told reporters on the condition of anonymity.

The official said the investors visited two companies in the factory park and asked general questions about their operations while being escorted by North Korean authorities.

Under an agreement with South Korea, North Korea is allowed to draw investors from other countries. The visit comes after North Korea either seized or froze South Korean assets at a joint mountain resort on its east coast last month.

On April 9, North Korea said it would also “entirely review” the Kaesong venture with South Korea if relations between the two sides do not improve.

And according to the Choson Ilbo:

The businessman who has been put in charge of wooing foreign investment to North Korea visited the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex on May 1 along with some 15 investors from China and Hong Kong.

Sources said Pak Chol-su, who heads the Taepung International Investment Group, toured a handful of firms and a water purification plant based in the complex as part of the one-day visit. They were escorted by a deputy head for the complex development project.

North Korea hired Pak, an ethnic Korean from China, in January as president of Taepung to attract foreign investment and to develop the North’s industrial complexes. Kim Yang-gon, the director of North Korea’s Workers’ Party’s United Front Department who heads the board of the company’s directors, accompanied North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on his recent trip to China.

Pak is also assistant chief of a state development bank North Korea opened recently to handle international financing operations.

There are rumors that North Korea is seeking to build industrial complexes in Sinuiju and other locations, said Cho Bong-Hyun, a North Korea analyst with the Industrial Bank of Korea. “It’s possible that Pak took Chinese investors to the Kaesong Industrial Complex to demonstrate that Chinese capital could be invested in North Korean labor.”

The South Korean Ministry of Unification remains publicly uninterested.  According to KBS:

South Korea’s Unification Ministry says it does not give much weight to a North Korean investment group’s reported visit to the Gaeseong Industrial Complex in North Korea with a group of Chinese investors.

A ministry official told reporters Tuesday morning that Seoul does not consider the Taepung International Investment Group a company officially representing the North Korean government and thus is not overly concerned about the visits.

The official added that recently the North has often been taking Chinese investors on tours of Gaeseong.

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