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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
South Korea could mitigate the impact of an ongoing dispute with Japan by establishing a “peace economy” based on inter-Korean economic cooperation, President Moon Jae-in said on Monday.
Speaking at a meeting with chief aides, Moon stressed the importance of economic cooperation between Seoul and Pyongyang as a means to overcome difficulties caused by an escalating trade dispute with Tokyo.
South Korea has been able to reaffirm the “desperate need” to achieve a so-called “peace economy” through the ongoing feud with Japan, Moon said.
Tokyo removed Seoul from its export white list on Friday, in a move seen as retaliation for a South Korean Supreme Court ruling on compensation for the victims of wartime forced labor and expected to have a major knock-on effect on the regional economy.
President Moon in response on Monday stressed the significance of inter-Korean cooperation as a way to lessen Seoul’s economic dependence on Japan — long one of South Korea’s top trading partners.
“Japan can never block the leap our economy has taken,” Moon said. “If a peace economy is achieved based on economic cooperation between the South and North, we will be able to catch up with Japan’s dominant position.”
The creation of a “peace economy” is not something Seoul should give up on, he stressed, even if “there are vicissitudes in inter-Korean and North Korea-U.S. relations.”
“As there has been a long period of confrontation and distrust, it will only be possible when both mutually restore trust with persistent determination,” the South Korean President said.
“When the South and North work together, co-prosperity can be achieved on the basis of peace on the Korean peninsula.”
The need for increased inter-Korean economic cooperation has been a major theme of Moon’s Presidency, with the South Korean government first proposing the creation of a North-South “peace economy” in its five-year plan in July 2017.
In a speech marking Korea’s Liberation Day last year, he predicted inter-Korean economic cooperation could bring in KRW 170 trillion ($150 billion) over the next three decades, citing research by the state-run Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP).
A New Year’s press conference in January then saw the President reiterate his view that Seoul should not miss the opportunity to take the lead should the North Korean market open up.
Inter-Korean cooperation, he said, could serve as a “groundbreaking growth engine” for the South Korean economy.
DPRK leader Kim Jong Un also sent an overture to the South Korean government in his New Year’s speech, saying Pyongyang was willing to resume operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) and tourism at Mount Kumgang “in return for nothing.”
North Korean media has since then, however, condemned the South Korean government’s “indecisive attitude” toward the resumption of the inter-Korean economic projects, plans which have remained on hold amid stalled DPRK-U.S. negotiations.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Blue House