N.K. metals, minerals to be sold directly to South

Hankyoreh (h/t Tim Beal)

Deal would see such shipments cross the DMZ for the first time

For the first time in the more than 50 years since the Korean War, minerals produced jointly by the two Koreas will be sold in South Korea. The two countries will also start to work on developing new mine projects and will launch drilling as early as next month, Lee Han-ho, head of the Korea Resources Corp. (KORES) told the Hankyoreh in a recent exclusive interview.

Lee is one of the group of business leaders and government officials that will accompany President Roh Moo-hyun during the second-ever inter-Korean summit slated for Oct. 2-4.

“On September 5, I met with Chung Un-up, North Korean head of the Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation Association in Pyongyang, and signed a deal to sell black lead products that two Koreas jointly produced at a mine in Hwanghae Province,” Lee said. “We also agreed to work together in developing a limestone mine in Shinwon of the same province and start drilling for black lead in the Pungcheon region.”

So far, minerals produced in the North have been sold in South Korea through a third country, such as China. Every year, US$10 million to $100 million worth of originally North Korean-produced non-metals were shipped to the South. This new project will be the first time such materials produced by the two Koreas will directly cross the line that has divided the peninsula since the 1950-53 Korean War.

The cross-border shipments would also come at a time when China is working on joint ventures with the North to develop resources in the communist country. Experts see the first-ever joint production and shipment of minerals as providing a boost for inter-Korean cooperation in the resources field.

Lee was invited to the North by the Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation Association. The first shipment, amounting to 200 tons will be on the South Korean market earlier next month, with 800-1,000 tons of black lead to follow. Wonjin Co. will be responsible for the sale of the black lead, which will be used in making fire-resistant materials and carbonized steel. Eight hundred tons of black lead would be priced at around $150,000.

KORES opened a 50-50 joint venture with a North Korean firm in April last year, but its full-blown operation has been delayed until recently due to electricity shortages in the North.


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