US warns ROK on sensitive materials to Kaesong but not too worried

From Korea Times:

Control on Sensitive Materials to NK Tightened

South Korea’s Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy has issued a warning to 80,000 local companies against any shipments of strategic materials to North Korea, officials said Wednesday.

In an e-mail message sent to trading companies, the ministry said international pressure was mounting to prevent Pyongyang from acquiring materials that can be used for the production of weapons of mass destruction. North Korea has been condemned by many countries as well as the U.N. Security Council for firing a series of missiles into the East Sea on July 5.

The ministry also said that with U.S. lawmakers poised to pass a law that penalizes foreign companies that ship dual-purpose materials to North Korea, Washington is expected to strengthen its international monitoring activities.

The message said it could lead to sanctions being imposed on all violators discovered by the U.S. surveillance.

In addition, the ministry said South Korean firms should be careful of shipping products to China and some Southeast Asian countries that could be resold to North Korea.

“If companies have any doubts about whether or not their shipping of products violated the strategic material export rules, they should not hesitate to ask the government,” an official said. He added that companies that ship products to the inter-Korean industrial complex in the North Korean city of Kaesong, just north of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, should be particularly careful.

South Korea is a signatory to the Wassenaar Arrangement, a multilateral pact that restricts the export of commercial products that can be used to make weapons to certain countries. The United Nations has also stressed the need to monitor such trade.

Authorities here have said they will step up efforts to detect and penalize violations.

From Korea Times:

Inter-Korean Economic Projects Not Worrisome’ 

By Park Song-wu, Lee Jin-woo

Inter-Korean economic cooperation programs are not a worry to the United States as the money ending up in North Korea is not likely to be used for developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD), a ranking U.S. finance official said.

In an interview with the Voice of America on Tuesday, U.S. Undersecretary of Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Crimes Stuart Levey said what Washington worries about is the North attempting to abuse international financial institutions to secure funds for its development of WMD.

He said the Kaesong industrial park project and the Mt. Kumgang tourism program _ the two examples of cross-border cooperation _ are not the concerns the U.S. government has in mind to safeguard the international financial system.

In a related development, the Kaesong complex is expected to churn out products worth a record high of $6 million this month, despite security concerns on the Korean Peninsula caused by the North’s missile launches on July 5, an official at the Unification Ministry said.

Denying a negative outlook for South Korean factories in Kaesong, Ko Gyoung-bin, who is in charge of supporting the project, said “everything is going perfectly okay.”

“The total production amount is expected to reach $6 million for the first time since its opening in June 2004, almost 100 percent up from $3 million of last December,” he said during a press briefing in Seoul on Wednesday.

Ko said the export volume of Kaesong products has also been steadily increasing from $1.1 million in May to $1.6 million in June.

“I don’t agree with recent reports which tried to link North Korea’s missile threats with the Kaesong complex,” he said. “I met a few working-level North Korean officials involved in the project last week and they were determined to continue this project.”

As for concerns whether the North Korean government properly pays their workers the wages sent by South Korean firms, Ko said he is confidant that the money has not been diverted for other purposes.

“South Korea has paid some $500,000 to $600,000 for those 7,800 workers and their families each month,” he said. “I don’t think there’s enough room for North Korean authorities to use part of the relatively small amount of money for other purposes.”

He added the number of North Korean workers in the complex would reach 8,000 this month.

A North Korean worker there earns $64 in wages and allowances a month. Most of the money is paid on the 10th of the month. This month, it was paid as scheduled.

South Korea paid $6 million to rent the complex site for 50 years in 2004.

Earlier this month, the Korea Land Corp., a state-run land developer, which has been involved in the Kaesong project, decided to postpone the sales of some 516,000 pyong (1.7 million square meters) of land in the industrial complex to both South Korean and multi-national companies.

Unlike the present South Korean firms in Kaesong, which benefited from the inter-Korean cooperation fund with low interest rates and a three-year grace period to pay back borrowed money, companies which wish to newly join the project will be required to get loans from commercial banks after getting credit guarantee notes issued by the state-run Korea Credit Guarantee Fund (KODIT).

The industrial complex is expected to house about 2,000 South Korean companies employing nearly half a million North Koreans when it comes into full swing in 2012, according to the ministry.



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