South Korean businesses welcome inter-Korean agreement

South Korea’s business community on Tuesday welcomed a landmark agreement reached between the two Koreas to resolve quickly escalating tensions, pledging to make expanded efforts to bolster economic cooperation with North Korea.

Following days of high-level marathon negotiations, the two Koreas eased tensions Tuesday morning as Pyongyang expressed “regret” over a recent land mine blast that injured two South Korean soldiers at the border and lifted its “semi-war state” in exchange for Seoul’s promise to halt its anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts.

Chief of South Korea’s National Security Office Kim Kwan-jin (right) and his North Korean counterpart Hwang Pyong-so, vice chairman of the North Korea’s National Defense Commission and director of the General Political Bureau of the (North) Korean People’s Army, agree on a deal Tuesday to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula. (Ministry of Unification)

The Federation of Korean Industries, South Korea’s major business lobby group, welcomed the agreement, expressing plans to move forward its stated plans to bolster economic cooperation and business ties with North Korea.

“We welcome the agreement struck between the North and South, which we expect will push forward economic cooperation that had been on the downturn amid high tensions,” Eom Chi-sung, director of the international team at the FKI, said in a statement.

“The FKI has been preparing to step up exchange between the two Koreas in the private sector,” Eom said, adding that it has “drawn up a number of principles to guide its efforts to build a mutually beneficial economic exchange between the North and South.”

As the agreement is set to defuse cross-border tensions, the South Korean business federation expressed plans to “gradually begin carrying out more detailed projects, including the establishment of communication offices in Pyongyang.”

The Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, South Korea’s largest private business organization, also expressed “relief” at the agreement, vowing to step up its efforts to increase the South’s economic ties with the North.

“Boosted by improved inter-Korean relations, the KCCI will strengthen its drive to set the foundation for bringing mutually beneficial development across the Korean Peninsula,” said Choi Kyu-jong, director of industrial policy at KCCI.

In June, the KCCI had pledged to find ways to enlarge cooperation with its counterpart in North Korea, through measures such as offering business education, allowing North Korean firms to visit South Korean companies and consulting services.

The two Koreas have also agreed to hold negotiations early next month on resuming family reunions in the long run as part of the accord, boosting hopes for a revival in joint projects and operations in the North that have remained largely suspended since 2010.

Hyundai Asan — the Hyundai Motor Group affiliate that manages the tours to Mount Geumgangsan and the jointly run Gaeseong Industrial Complex in North Korea — expressed “high hopes that the family reunions will continue without trouble,” vowing to “do its share in improving inter-Korean relations.”

In February 2014, the Hyundai subsidiary had supplied the necessary infrastructure and services for the last set of family reunions on Mount Geumgangsan, the first in four years.

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