Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Once again suprised by what I am reading. I'm glad somebody has finally said this is enough. As I have said many time to appease a dictator only goes to make him more hungry.

It Was High Time Someone Stood Up to North Korea

Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun on Monday publicly rejected a North Korean demand to reinstate Kim Yoon-kyu, the disgraced vice chairman of Hyundai Asan who had dealt with the North for many years in arranging their joint tourism projects. "I now seem to stand at a crossroads of whether to continue or quit our North Korea projects," she said. Since Hyundai's ouster of Kim, Pyongyang has applied pressure on the group by slashing the quota for the Asan’s Kumgang Mountains tours and blanking requests for negotiations on stalled projects to Kaesong and Mt. Baekdu. When Hyun visited the Kumgang Mountains, she says, authorities forced her to open her handbag, a gesture she interpreted as contempt, and she concluded, “I'll choose honest conscience rather than opportunistic servility."

It is standard practice in inter-Korean economic cooperation to put up with Pyongyang’s demented behavior. That makes Hyun’s statement all the more significant. Her resolve not to allow North Korean pressure to meddle in her corporation's managerial rights is the natural choice for a top executive, but in the reality of inter-Korean relations things rarely take their natural course.

The government has taken the lead in feebly succumbing to pressure from the North. In 2000, South Korean Red Cross president Chang Chung-shik had to resign because of North Korean protest after he remarked at a press conference, "There is no freedom in North Korea." In 2001, Unification Minister Hong Soon-young was replaced in a Cabinet reshuffle after the North demanded his dismissal more than 10 times following a ruckus at an inter-Korean ministerial conference. Under the current government, naval commanders were reprimanded over problems involving their reporting channel after they repulsed a North Korean patrol boat that had crossed into Korean waters.

The government leads the surrender, and businesses follow. It is commonplace for our businesses to make informal payments to Pyongyang when they do business in the North; no business can be conducted there without them. Hyundai had to give to the North US$400 million for the first inter-Korean summit; former Hyundai Asan chairman Chung Mong-hun committed suicide while engaged in North Korea projects.

Pyongyang should know that many South Koreans feel refreshed by chairwoman Hyun's resolute attitude, because they have been uneasy about the way inter-Korean business is conducted. Economic cooperation that requires South Korean taxpayers' money cannot succeed without public support. What North Korea is trying to do by offering the Kaesong tourism project to another South Korean corporation is drive a wedge between South Korean businesses. One wonders, then, if an oddly timed investigation by the National Tax Service of Hyundai Elevator, Hyundai Group’s de facto holding company, is not another flank in the North’s attack on the group.

as one writter stated this should be intresting to see where this path will lead.


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