Kumgang Update 4



We posted a lengthy state-of-play on Kumgang in late July. But in yet another bizarre twist to the story, the North has apparently signed an MOU with a small American trading company, Korea Pyongyang Trading USA, to play some role in getting tours going again (Yonhap; Korea Herald; Dong-a Ilbo)

The agreement would put the company’s Steve Park (Park Il-woo) in charge of marketing, investor relations and tourist recruitment for the project; he is apparently traveling to Pyongyang shortly to work out the details.

The idea that the US importer of Pyongyang Soju would be able to play such a role is a pretty clear indication of how far removed from reality the North Korean leadership (and Park) are at the moment; Hyundai Asan and the South Korean government will clearly veto the idea. But the North Koreans are not giving up their effort to pressure Seoul back to the table, and news sources suggest that MOUs with Chinese and Japanese firms are coming next.

One small detail: the Chinese are not going to touch this with a ten-foot pole and both the US and Japan have sanctions against North Korea that clearly extend to services; we provided details on the relevant US statute—Executive Order 13570—in an earlier post.

But who knows? Maybe the Obama administration will issue a waiver to directly undercut the property rights of a major South Korean chaebol. On reflection, this story probably belongs on our growing list of “not satire” tags.

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