Major South Korean bank Hana Financial Group (KEB Hana Bank) is in the process of setting up its own ‘taskforce team’ (TFT) to investigate future joint projects with North Korea, NK News confirmed on Monday.
In news first reported by the South’s Yonhap News Agency, KEB Hana’s TFT is set to begin work “as early as this month” and may seek outside help running the group after an initial period.
A spokesperson for KEB Hana Bank declined to provide additional details regarding the group’s makeup or schedule, but confirmed to NK News that the TFT will begin work soon.
The news comes amid an increase in efforts by both public and private South Korean organizations to prepare for planned inter-Korean economic cooperation in the coming months, though realizing these plans largely hinges on the outcome of further high-level talks between the U.S., South Korea, and the North.
Yonhap reported that other major banks, such as Woori Financial Group and Shinhan Financial Group, have also begun preparing for inter-Korean joint projects.
KB Kookmin Bank was reported by local media to be “considering” establishing its own TFT – claims a company spokesperson denied when contacted by NK News on Monday.
South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party last week released a list of joint infrastructure projects it hopes the South can conduct in North Korea as part of its “Five Major Promises” to voters ahead of the June 13 local elections: a potential preview of future opportunities for local businesses should upcoming negotiations go well.
Almost any major inter-Korean economic cooperation would require some degree of relief from international sanctions against the DPRK before they could begin.
South Korean firm Hyundai Asan last week confirmed to NK News plans to convene weekly meetings to discuss future opportunities in North Korea, with a view to restarting its now-shuttered operations in Kaesong and Mt. Kumgang – projects explicitly mentioned in the Democratic Party manifesto.
When asked if Hyundai Asan would pursue operations in the new North Korean Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Area, a spokesperson for the group told NK News that it intends to pursue its existing “development rights” in various tourist sites in North Korea, including the “Wonsan project,” but also cited ongoing political uncertainty as an obstacle to progress.
“The priority is the restarting of our past operations,” a spokesperson for Hyundai Asan said. “We will move forward after receiving approvals following negotiations between North and South Korea.”
Government-backed bodies, too, have been linked to projects exploring the possibilities of inter-Korean economic cooperation.
NK News reported last week that the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) – a ROK government regulator – had commissioned research into boosting the North Korean financial sector through various joint projects.
Another public organization, the Korea Small Business Institute (KOSBI), was also last week reportedly investigating on ways to incorporate North Korean labor and resources into the global economy through inter-Korean projects.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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Featured Image: by nknews_hq on 2015-09-05 14:12:19