Das geteilte Land - KOREA

2016: Closing the Kaesong Industrial Zone

Südkorea <> Nordkorea
Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.  Volume 14 | Issue 6 | Number 5, March 15, 2016
Mit freundlicher Erlaubnsi von Japan Focus.

Closing the Kaesŏng Industrial Zone: An Assessment

Rüdiger Frank, Théo Clément


he Kaesŏng closure in context
On February 10, 2016, the South Korean government announced that it would close the Kaesŏng Industrial Zone (KIZ) in response to the North Korean nuclear test of January 6th and the launch of a satellite on February 7th. The zone, sometimes simply called by the name of the adjacent city of Kaesŏng, had been the last tangible outcome of the historic first inter-Korean summit of June 2000, which later that year had earned one of its two participants, the South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, the Nobel Peace Prize. His counterpart Kim Jong-il, who hosted the summit, received none. He was compensated generously by what has been rumored to be millions of dollars from South Korea. The payment was allegedly facilitated by Hyundai.1 That is the same company that managed the Mt. Kŭmgang tourism project in North Korea, another successful joint project that has been frozen since 2008. Through its subsidiary Asan, Hyundai also built the Kaesŏng industrial zone.

The story of the summit is quite telling in many respects. It illustrates the Western perspective on North Korea in general, and on Kaesŏng in particular. Nelson Mandela once famously said that if you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. This advice often seems to fall on deaf ears, notably with respect to North Korea. We tend to regard talking to and working with Pyongyang as a generous and precious gift. Each time the North Koreans agree to engage, we assume they do so only reluctantly. If we finally succeed in reaching an agreement, we regard this not as a win-win situation, but as a victory against or a generous compromise with a difficult enemy whom we do not trust and whom we, in the final analysis, want to defeat and destroy.

Ironically, the North Korean perspective on their dealings with the West is quite similar, the other way round of course. If you don't wish to read North Korean history books or literature, just have a look at photos of negotiations that can be found in various museums around North Korea. The American negotiators are often pictured as either holding their head in desperation or turning to their staff for help, while the North Korean counterpart is calm, determined, and self-confident.  ...



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