ROK to promote knowledge sharing with DPRK

From the Korea Times:

Seoul to Promote Knowledge Sharing With N. Korea
By Kim Sung-jin
Staff Reporter

The government Thursday said it will continue to promote various projects to exchange economic knowledge with the reclusive North Korea.

Vice Finance and Economy Minister Bahk Byong-won said Thursday that private economic cooperation between the South and the North has become brisker than ever with the Kaesong Industrial Complex and North Korean tourism projects getting into full swing, but inter-government cooperation is still very limited.

“What we need more than anything else to further advance the cooperative inter-Korean economic relations is an extension of knowledge-sharing programs with the North,” Bahk said. He made the remarks at a conference on knowledge sharing for the economic development of North Korea at the Westin Chosun Hotel in downtown Seoul.

Participants in the conference included the Asia Foundation’s country representative in Korea Edward Reed, head of political section of the Delegation of the European Commission to Korea Maria Castillo Fernandez, former Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation’s (SDC) North Korean office resident director Rudolf Strasser and Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP) president Lee Kyung-tae.

As Bahk noted, government-level economic exchange programs between the South and the North are still very limited although Seoul and Pyongyang agreed on revising a plan to dispatch economic inspectors across the demilitarized zone (DMZ) at the Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation talks held on Cheju Island between June 3 and 6.

“The Korean government will make consistent efforts to widen knowledge sharing with the North as well as with the international community,” Bahk said.

“We also hope that academia, non-government organizations and international organizations will play a leading role in extending inter-Korean knowledge sharing programs,” he added.

Annual inter-Korean economic transactions, including the transaction of merchandise and services such as tourism, have made a significant improvement over the past five years regardless of the political tension on the Korean Peninsula. They expanded to $1 billion in 2005 from some $200 million prior to the inter-Korean Summit held in 2000.

Meanwhile, the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) said Thursday that inter-Korean economic transaction, or trade, expanded 30 percent in the first five months of this year, thanks to vibrant industrial activity in Kaesong just across the inter-Korean border.

Between January and May, inter-Korean economic transactions amounted to $428.63 million, up 34.4 percent from the same period last year.

In the cited period, North Korea-bound South Korean goods jumped 35.4 percent to $264.97 million, and imports from the North increased 32.9 percent to $163.66 million.

Inter-Korean economic transactions are forecast to expand sharply next year as the number of South Korean manufacturers moving into the Kaesong industrial complex will reach 300 with the completion of the first phase of the industrial park construction project, up from current 15.

Seoul plans to help Kaesong house as many as 2,000 South Korean firms by 2012 when the complex is fully developed.

From Yonhap:

South Korea will intensify efforts in technical assistance and training for North Korea in order to help the communist state’s economy grow further, a government official said Thursday.

“We should help the North to enhance its understanding of economic principles and their operation mechanism, which will guarantee us more substantial and enduring results from economic assistance to North Korea,” Vice Finance Minister Bahk Byong-won said in a speech at a forum titled “Knowledge Sharing for Economic Development of North Korea.”

“Material assistance without economic knowledge and managerial capacity cannot contribute to sustainable economic growth,” he said.

Bahk said excessive transaction costs caused by the lack of adequate knowledge about economic principles, practices and international economy on the North Korean side have posed bigger threats to economic development than anything else.

“Some have suggested that inter-Korean cooperation has proceeded at a slow pace, but despite a rapidly changing environment, inter-Korean economic cooperation has shown remarkable strides,” he said.

Inter-Korean trade volume, which stood at US$2 million-$3 million before the 2000 inter-Korean summit, reached $1 billion last year, making South Korea the second-largest trading partner of North Korea, the official said.

Also, personnel exchanges and movement between South and North Korea have never been more frequent than recently, he said.

Bahk said economic cooperation between the Koreas, which has been regarded as one-sided, has also shifted to the one that is reciprocal and serves mutual interests, he said.

“South Korea, international organizations and nongovernmental organizations should seek to create synergies by exerting concerted efforts through sharing information among ourselves with regard to the knowledge-sharing experience with North Korea,” Bahk said.

The South Korean government will not spare any effort to vitalize knowledge sharing with North Korea for its economic development in close partnership with the international community, he said.


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