So now that the Free-Trade Agreement between the U.S. and South Korea is officially in effect, the supposedly conservative South Korean government is pulling a bait-and-switch, reviving the demand of its leftist predecessor to include products made by the virtual slave laborers in Kaesong, North Korea in the deal:
South Korea is pushing to include the Gaeseong industrial zone in North Korea in its free-trade deals with the U.S. and Europe, a step that would deepen cross- border ties after the North’s leadership transition.
“Unification is already taking place in Gaeseong, with daily encounters and shared interests,” said Yoo Dong Ok, the chairman of Daewha Fuel Pump Industries and a spokesman for South Korean companies operating in the manufacturing enclave. Shipments from the factories, mostly textiles and car parts, would quickly surge 15 percent if they win free-trade status, Yoo estimated in a March 20 interview.
Yoo and the government in Seoul want the fruits of North Korean workers’ labors on the shelves of stores in Chicago and Berlin, even as they condemn the regime of new leader Kim Jong Un for a planned rocket launch. [Bloomberg]
Yeah, you say, but who exactly in the South Korean government is actually saying this?
Trade Minister Bark Tae Ho said on March 14 that he will try to persuade the U.S. and European Union to recognize products made in Gaeseong as South Korean.
The perverse result of this would be that North Korea has an FTA with the United States and Japan does not. What a splendid way to celebrate the one-year anniversary of North Korea sinking a South Korean warship, even as the North prepares to test a
missile satellite. Some very smart people told us that this would never happen. I don’t doubt that the Korea Lobby’s many foot soldiers in this town encouraged them in believing that. From the beginning of Lee Myung Bak’s presidency until now, every South Korean diplomat you saw, heard from, had lunch with, or who introduced so-and-so at this-or-that think tank was an FTA monomaniac. They were like annoying insurance salesmen or subway evangelists who always found ways to steer every conversation (however clumsily) toward trying to pitch their product — in this case, the FTA. Which, without its North Korean entanglements, would be a good thing for both countries.
And if a conservative South Korean government is pushing the expansion of the FTA into Kaesong now, what do you suppose a leftist South Korean government would do? It’s not the first time I’ve seen the Korea Lobby (and its State Department enablers) pull something this unprincipled and cynical, and it’s why I’ve learned that you just can’t trust them.