So a week after the shelling of Yeonpyeong, the Washington Post leads me to believe that a lot of South Koreans who had been inclined to overlook previous North Korean outrages are really outraged this time. The Post’s correspondent thinks that the South’s infamous generation gap as to perceptions about North Korea has closed significantly in the last week. That’s good if it lasts, and if it translates into a policy that puts us on the path to strangling and subverting the regime itself. More here, at the Joongang Ilbo, which notes the rising anger at China on the Korean Street.
Far be it for me to defend China’s conduct here, but that criticism doesn’t really pass the laugh test, coming as it does from a country that still pours millions of dollars into Kim Jong Il’s bank accounts through the Kaesong Industrial Park. All of the reasons that justified the Kaesong experiment have been refuted by events. It failed to attract significant foreign investment, it’s not producing much for export, the labor costs keep rising, the North keeps meddling, and it hasn’t made North Korea play nice. The experiment has failed.
So why keep it open, aside from the fear that the North will take hostages, or the fact that it might have been politically unpopular at one time? The South Koreans have told me they’re afraid of putting the investors out of business, to which I say Kaesong was always a risky investment. Ordinarily, businesses have to evaluate and accept risks. In the case of Kaesong, those businesses always required government subsidies to break even. Why not give those investors a modest bailout package, thank them for playing, and tell them to go back and compete in the global economy? You can criticize China for propping up North Korea all you want, but your words will fall flat as long as you’re paying for the shells than land in your own damn country.