The revision of the Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Act submitted to the National Assembly includes a provision that allows corporations and organizations to establish offices in North Korea for their cross-border business. In its review of the revision, the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee of the National Assembly recommended that it should be considered whether it is appropriate to make it into a law when inter-Korean relations have turned sour in the past years as can be seen from instances, such as suspension of Mt. Kumgang tours in 2008, shutting down of the Kaesong Industrial Complex in 2016, and wrecking of a joint liaison office in 2020 by North Korea.
The provision in the revised bill is from the existing “Guidelines on the establishment of offices in North Korea by domestic enterprises and economic organizations” set by the Ministry of Unification. According to the revised bill, offices in North Korea are different from a North Korean branch of a company in that they conduct only non-business functions, such as business contact, market research, and research and development. It appears the provision aims to legally support the establishment of a “civil liaison office” in order to facilitate inter-Korean exchanges by organizations and enterprises.
As the National Assembly pointed out, however, it is regrettable to see the government promoting such legislation considering the current inter-Korean relations and especially when the rubbles of the blown up inter-Korean liaison office have not even been collected. North Korea has not made an apology or compensated for its demolition of the joint liaison office. It even brutally killed a South Korean official near the western sea border. Still, the government is taking a submissive attitude toward North Korea, banning activists from flying anti-North Korea leaflets like nothing ever happened.
There have been so many unpredictable events between the two Koreas. Who would have thought Pyongyang would blow up a joint liaison office in Kaesong when it was first established? The offices that will be established in North Korea may later share the fate of the destroyed liaison office in Kaesong. The image of the shocking demolition eight months ago is still vivid in our memory. It is beyond disappointment and despair to see the government currying favor with North Korea when the pride of its people has been hurt.