RoK examining DPRK trade and investment

According to Yonhap:

Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung told reporters that the government has urged about 200 companies to refrain from signing new deals or supplying resources to North Korea.

“We thought there were possibilities the companies may suffer unexpected losses under the uncertain and murky circumstances” on the Korean Peninsula, Chun said.

Last month, North Korea confiscated or froze South Korean assets at a joint mountain resort on its east coast in anger over Seoul’s refusal to resume cross-border tours.

The move prompted South Korea to pledge retaliatory measures. Inter-Korean relations further eroded amid suspicions that an elusive North Korean submarine attacked a South Korean warship on March 26, killing 46 crew members.

Chun said the ministry warning did not apply to the more than 110 South Korean companies operating in the North Korean border town of Kaesong, where they employ about 42,000 North Korean workers to produce labor-intensive goods.

Inter-Korean consignment trade, in which vendors here supply raw materials to North Korea to be assembled into final products, amounted to US$254 million last year, Chun said. The vendors have favored factories in Pyongyang and the western port city of Nampo.

A multinational investigation is under way in South Korea to examine the suspected North Korean attack on the South Korean corvette Cheonan near the western inter-Korean border. North Korea denies any role.

Observers say the South Korean retaliatory measures are likely to come after investigators announce their results, which are expected as early as next week.

Also according to Yonhap:

North Korea’s moribund economy is projected to lose about US$370 million a year and about 80,000 jobs if inter-Korean trade is entirely suspended, a Seoul-based civic group said Sunday.

“If inter-Korean trade is fully halted, North Korea will lose $230 million a year in trade of agricultural goods,” the civic group said in a statement.

There would be also a loss of $49 million for the North if the Kaesong complex is shut down, the group said. Other losses came from already-suspended tourism between the two Koreas.

And according to the Choson Ilbo:

The government has worked out a package of sanctions to take if North Korea is found to have been behind the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan on March 26. It will also be kind of counterblow to the North’s seizure and freezing of South Korean property in the Mt. Kumgang resort area late last month.

A senior government official on Wednesday said the sanctions formulated at the initiative of the Unification Ministry include banning sand imports from the North which were worth some US$70 million to the North in 2008. The imports were banned after the North launched a long-range rocket in April last year but were resumed in October.

South Korean firms that have already paid can proceed but no fresh deals can be struck.

Another target may be fisheries products. Of the total W1.06 trillion (US$1=W1,142) worth of worth of imports from the North last year, fisheries products were second with W173 billion or 16.3 percent after textiles (W477 billion or 44.8 percent).

A ministry official said, “Fisheries products are sold by companies under the North Korean military or government that specialize in earning dollars, so a ban would deal a blow to the regime.” But the regime does not cream off much from textile exports because South Korean firms depend chiefly on the joint Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex. Most of the money funneled to the North is meant as wages for North Korean workers.

The downside is that hundreds of importers of North Korean fisheries products would suffer. The government is also worried about skyrocketing prices. North Korean merchant ships could lose their right to pass through the Jeju Strait, granted them under an inter-Korean maritime agreement concluded in 2004.

A ban would mean higher fuel costs as the ships would have to make a detour through the high seas, a government official said.

The ministry submitted a report on the sanctions package to Cheong Wa Dae right after the North announced last month it was seizing South Korean property in Mt. Kumgang, but the government at the last moment decided to put it off.

“It seems that the government will make an announcement about a response to the sinking of the Cheonan and the North’s seizure of property in Mt. Kumgang next week, when the findings of the Cheonan investigation are out,” the official said.

Read the full stories below:
S. Korea moves to curb trade with N. Korea
Sam Kim

Seoul Prepares Sanctions Over Cheonan Sinking
Choson Ilbo

N. Korea to suffer dearly from halt in inter-Korean trade: civic group


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