The government is reviewing suspending inter-Korean economic exchanges to punish North Korea for its involvement in the sinking of the South Korean naval patrol ship Cheonan. This is the correct judgment and a necessary measure. If South Korea only depends on punishment from the international community despite the sacrifice made by the 46 Cheonan crewmen killed, the country cannot be considered a sovereign nation.
The previous Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations did nothing in the face of North Korean provocations on the grounds of no leverage. Such a passive response led to the Cheonan incident. South Korea can take many measures to punish North Korea. Pyongyang might have conducted its nuclear and missile tests with secret funds, not to mention holding a lavish fireworks display to mark the birthday of national founder Kim Il Sung. So blocking the sources of such secret funds can be an effective way to punish the North.
South Koreas import of North Korean sand is a project that helps the North Korean military. In 2006, then ruling Grand National Party lawmaker Choi Kyung-hwan, who is now knowledge economy minister, told a parliamentary inspection of the South Korean administration, Forty-two million dollars used to buy sand has gone entirely to the North Korean People`s Armed Forces Ministry since 2004. Despite this, the then Roh Moo-hyun administration did not stop the import of North Korean sand. The Lee Myung-bak administration stopped this practice after the North test-fired its long-range Taepo-dong missile in April last year, but resumed it in February this year to recover investment funds. Though import standards have been strengthened, the sand payments still go to the North Korean military. So the import of North Korean sand should be immediately stopped.
Some 70 North Korean restaurants and bars in major Chinese cities also earn foreign currency income for Pyongyang. Those close to high-ranking North Korean officials, including relatives of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, operate such establishments. Eighty to 90 percent of the customers are South Korean tourists and ethnic Koreans in China. They should know that the money they spend there goes to the North and helps it to continue provocations against the South. A boycott of North Korean restaurants in China will deal a blow to the privileged class in Pyongyang who back Kim.
Inter-Korean economic exchanges and cooperation that only benefit the North Korean government and its elite should be reexamined. The South should also set the direction of the Kaesong industrial complex to prevent the North from continuously tormenting the South. The previous Roh Moo-hyun administration signed an agreement on inter-Korean marine transportation, saying, Both Koreas recognize that inter-Korean economic exchange and cooperation are not something between countries but projects within the nation. The North has betrayed the South, however. Blocking North Korean civilian vessels from passing the Jeju Strait should also be considered. The foolish act of giving money to the North while denouncing its provocations must end immediately.