Lifting the May 24 Sanctions: Haggard at Joongang Daily

January 14, 2015 7:00 AM

Commission of Inquiry report. Sony hack. New allegations of links to the Syrian nuclear program. And all of the old tricks of making nice to the South while blaming the US—and the joint exercises—for dividing the peninsula.

So why should we be lifting sanctions rather than imposing more, as the President just did and the House has advocated even more strongly?

In an editorial for Joongang Daily, I explain the logic (Korean here; all the comments to date have been negative).

The main points: more North-South trade through purely commercial channels is likely to have wider effects than enclaves like Kaesong or the aid-extortion racket. If Trustpolitik is going to get of the ground, it is time to take the longer view and—to cite Kim Dae Jung—try the separation of economics and politics. In any case, actual trade will depend on the North Koreans. Will they allow firms to make money or not?


Andrew Logie

I think the extreme negativity of the comments is more a reflection of the Joongang readership (I didn't know people that indiscriminately anti-North knew how to use computers; they don't even acknowledge your explicit criticisms of Sunshine and Kaesong). If you published the same in Hankyoreh, they'd attack you for the complete opposite reasons.


Stephan, the arguments, that may convince even conservative South Korean inhabitants are:
You will get access to the vast mineral ressources of North Korea.
You will get direct access to the Transsiberian railtrack.
You will get Russian gas by pipline. (Even electric power lines are thinkable.)
The sluggish South Korean economy will get a push forward.
Lifting the sanctions is especially in your advantage.


The thing I find odd about the timing of your erudite foray into the Joongang op-ed mire is that it has been clear for at least a year and more that the Park administration is ready and absolutely willing to remove the 5.24 Measure, but knows that there is the need to build the domestic political capital to do it. Nowhere is this clearer than in the goings on over South Korean investment in Rasun (via a Russian JV, through South Korean state companies such as KORAIL, primarily in infrastructure, etc.) which seems like a reasonably blatant violation of 5.24 being massaged into legality for the sake of political expediency. After all, the first coal shipped out of Rasun went to POSCO, a private firm. I support all of this, as it happens, and agree that the 5.24 Measure needs to go. Your op-ed, in all its accuracy, does not get close to addressing the question that matters: how to cultivate the political capital to allow it to be done.

Andrew Logie

Some thoughts (I don't know if I'm right or wrong). Companies like POSCO are so large they can never be 'purely commercial' (think 'too big to fail'). Similarly gas pipelines and railway connections are national scale projects and especially vulnerable to NK meddling; once built (with SK money) they could also benefit the North to some degree even if they periodically blocked transit to the South. Mineral resources, too, once the infrastructure is upgraded can be sold to China where most of the factories are. I think what Stephan is promoting is smaller scale private ventures which do not have national interests involved. The question is, there's already the potential for this to happen between China and NK, but it doesn't seem to work still: why would SK be any different? Here the irate cynics commenting on Joongang may be justified in their total distrust of NK. For this to work, it basically needs to be occurring at the illegal black-market level in NK which is much harder for SK companies to access than for Chinese, and even Chinese don't seem to make headway. (In 2011 there was a US-Korea Institute paper "Silent Partners" by Drew Thompson which discussed this thesis.)

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