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U.S. Questions South-North Ventures

Posted July. 20, 2006 03:05,   


The dissensions that had grown between Korea and the U.S. over the Gaesong Industrial Complex and tourism of Mt. Geumgang show signs of evolving into serious rifts.

At the U.S.-Korea Inter-Parliamentary Exchange Council press conference held at Rayburn House in Washington on July 18, the American chairman Edward Royce (Republican) emphasized the importance of where the profits from the industrial complex end up, stating the concern that the North Korean leadership may use the cash it earns for developing weapons of mass destruction such as missiles,

Officials from the Bush administration also recently noted that three laws on terrorism must be amended if the U.S. was to allow tax-free imports of goods produced in countries that support terrorism, such as North Korea, adding that such revision would be impossible for the U.S. Congress to accept. In effect, the U.S. will not be including products made in the Gaesong Industrial Complex in the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement negotiations, because of the inconsistencies with existing laws and regulations.

Stuart Levey, U.S. Treasury`s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence who visited Korea on July 16-18 is also reported to have met with Korean government officials and expressed a deep interest in whether a U.N. Security Council Resolution controlling the shipping of military supplies into North Korea would conflict with Mt. Geumgang tourism and the Gaesong complex.

In his statement upon departure from Seoul, disclosed on the U.S. Treasury website on July 18, he declared that they had discussed “issues of common interest, including the new United Nations Security Council Resolution that requires all member states to prevent the transfer of any financial resources in relation to DPRK`s missile or WMD programs.”

On July 18 Levey visited the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MOFE) and requested to know the Korean government’s position on the recent Security Council’s Resolution against North Korea; however a senior MOFE official replied that as the issue lies with the Ministry of Unification, MOFE was not in a place to provide an answer.

“We explained it [to Undersecretary Levey before he asked] because some concerns had been raised that the U.N. Security Council Resolution could clash with the Mt. Geumgang tourism and Gaesong Industrial Complex,” said Song Min-soon, chief presidential secretary for unification, foreign and security policy.

He went on to deny allegations that tensions had arisen between the two countries over the issue, stating that “Korean government officials had expressed there was no problem with the two enterprises regarding the purpose and range of domestic statutes, judicial judgement or international law mentioned in the Security Council Resolution, and Undersecretary Levey had responded that he understood well.”

While Washington has not demanded outright for South Korea to stop its industrial and tourism enterprises in the North, it has been reported to have conveyed strong concerns over the businesses bringing cash into North Korea.

However, a senior Korean official displayed a firm determination in pursuing the Gaesong project. “The Gaesong Industrial Complex is the epitome of the [current administration’s] North Korean policies. We will carry on with it no matter what difficulties are to be faced,” he said.

Fears have been raised that in case North Korea follows its arbitrary announcement on July 19 that it will no longer permit meetings of separated families with further measures to step up tension on the peninsula, South Korea and the U.S. could come to serious troubles over the Gaesong and Mt. Geumgang projects.

Meanwhile, a group of 56, comprised of people from credit assurance companies and from corporate banking divisions of banks such as Kookmin, Shinhan, Hana, Woori, Korea Development Bank (KDB), Kiup, City Bank Korea, Daegu, Busan, Kwangju, Jeonbuk and Kyongnam will be visiting the Gaesong Industrial Complex on July 21, sponsored by the Ministry of Unification.