Roh wants more cash for Kaesong

Joong Ang Daily

President Roh Moo-hyun said yesterday that his government will accelerate investment in North Korea’s Kaesong industrial park, regarding it as part of South Korea’s “unification expenses.”

“My government has not sped up the pace of its investment in the Kaesong industrial complex due to political risks. I now regret that,” the president said in an interview with the Maeil Economic Daily and its cable news affiliate MBN.

“Uncertainties surrounding investment in Kaesong will prove to be far less than expected, as the North Korean nuclear problem is certain to be settled through dialogue and confidence-building measures. Economic benefits from the Kaesong project are immeasurable.”

The president stressed that smooth operations of the industrial park will help South Korea’s external economic credibility and small businesses struggling with rising labor costs.

“The most important factor [involving Kaesong] is unification expenses. One of the surest ways to reduce the expense of unification is to make the Kaesong project successful. We have to expand our investment in Kaesong as soon as the North Korean nuclear problem is settled,” said Roh.

The industrial park is one of two flagship projects South Korea operates to promote reconciliation with North Korea, along with tours of the North’s scenic Mount Kumgang. Over 13,000 North Korean workers are now employed in Kaesong by 23 South Korean firms.

But opposition parties and other conservatives in the South are accusing the Roh government of having blindly offered excessive aid to the Kaesong complex and other inter-Korean cooperation projects.

Roh also reiterated his determination to pursue an FTA with China.

“A free trade deal with China is inevitable. But we’ll conclude it after completing the restructuring of our agricultural sector through the FTA with the U.S.”

Commenting on South Korea’s economic growth potential, Roh said the nation’s economic growth rate will soon rise again to the 7 percent level from under 5 percent due to positive effects from FTA deals and massive planned investments in the construction of new administrative, business and public corporation towns across the nation, which are estimated to reach 54 trillion won by 2010.


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