North Korea signalled it wants investments from South Korean companies to help modernise the secluded country, said a top executive in the business delegation that visited Pyongyang last week.
North Korea wants to have economic cooperation and technical assistance from the South, Sohn Kyung-shik, the 79-year-old co-chairman of CJ Group and the head of the Korea
Employers Federation, told Bloomberg Television’s Shery Ahn in an interview. “What they really want are investments to set up industry there,” he said.
Sohn’s comments reflect optimism in the wake of last week’s summit between North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in and as the communist country negotiates with
the US over its nuclear weapons arsenal. But many hurdles remain, as the North and South are technically still at war. Conducting business with North Korea is heavily restricted by United Nations sanctions.
Sohn accompanied Moon and was part of a South Korean business delegation that included Samsung Group Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong and LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo.
They met with the North’s Vice Premier Ri Ryong Nam, who’s in charge of economic affairs. Samsung’s Lee said then that he hoped the meeting would turn into an opportunity to build trust.
“They really want to have economic cooperation with South Korea,” Sohn said.
“But we didn’t make any big commitments so far.”
Earlier this month, South Korea opened a liaison office at an industrial park it sponsors in the North Korean city of Gaeseong, allowing officials from both countries to communicate around-the-clock for the first time since the start of the Korean War. In 2016, rising tensions led to closure of the complex, where more than 120 South Korean companies were operating.
President Donald Trump and Moon signed a free-trade agreement on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, the first major trade deal the US president has forged amid rising trade tensions.
The two leaders also discussed continuing sanctions against North Korea.
As to CJ, whose businesses range from foods to entertainment, the group sees opportunities in North Korea’s food and logistics industries, Sohn said.
Moon and Kim agreed last week to meet again so that the two Koreas can work on specifying steps towards denuclearisation and the resumption of economic projects such as the Mount Kumgang tours and the Gaeseong industrial park.