News / Asia

Seoul Considers Dropping North Korea Sanctions

Ahn Hong-joon, chairman of the South Korean National Assembly's Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee and lawmakers watch North Korean workers during a visit to a factory in the inter-Korean industrial park in Kaesong, North Korea, Oct. 30, 2013.
Ahn Hong-joon, chairman of the South Korean National Assembly's Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee and lawmakers watch North Korean workers during a visit to a factory in the inter-Korean industrial park in Kaesong, North Korea, Oct. 30, 2013.
Daniel Schearf
— South Korea says is debating lifting sanctions imposed on North Korea after the 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship. South Korea's opposition argues the trade limits originally aimed at punishing North Korea for sinking the ship are also hurting South Korea.

South Korea's top official on North Korea relations says the government is considering calls to end the punitive sanctions. Known as the “May 24th sanctions,” they ban all trade and investment with the North. The only exception to the sanctions is the joint Kaesong industrial park, where production was allowed but expansion confined.
 
The trade restrictions were imposed as punishment after public outrage over the 2010 sinking of the Cheonnan, a South Korean warship. Seoul blamed a North Korean submarine for torpedoing the ship, killing 46 sailors on board.
 
But on Friday South Korea's Unification Minister, Ryoo Kihl-jae, said the government was examining the possibility of lifting the sanctions.
 
"Public opinion on lifting the May 24th measures is divided.  A big decision by the government can be considered but they first need to take a look at the situation," he said.
 
Ryoo made the comment in testimony to South Korea's lawmaking body, the National Assembly.
 
Jung Cheong-rae, an opposition Democratic Party representative, called for the trade limits on North Korea to be removed. He told lawmakers the restrictions had cost South Korea's economy billions of dollars in estimated lost trade.
 
"The May 24th measures have caused almost $9 billion in damage to South Korea's economy while North Korea's damage is measured at $2.25 billion. So, the harm to South Korea is four times larger than that to North Korea," he said.
 
Jung was citing a report by the private think tank Hyundai Research Institute. The Democratic Party supports trade and engagement with North Korea and was a principle critic of the sanctions.
 
South Korean businesses say their absence in the North allowed Chinese companies to take over projects that they were forced to abandon.
 
And while inter-Korean trade fluctuated, China's trade with the North rose to new highs.
 
Lim Wan-keun is chairman of the Inter-Korea Economic Association. He says South Korean businesses also lost relationships in the North that were difficult to develop because of ongoing tensions.
 
"North Korea did not have big losses because they can just sell products at low cost and everything goes to China. However, South Korea stopped importing fisheries and agricultural products [from North Korea] so now it buys low quality Chinese products.  Those business related to North Korea collapsed, laying off workers and suffering huge losses," he said.
 
Lim says the two Koreas need to maintain communication channels even if relations are suffering. He says keeping a variety of players involved in dialogue, not just politicians, helps to minimize economic losses and improve relations.
 
Although South Korea appears to have a larger cost from the sanctions, its economy, measured by gross national income, is 38 times that of North Korea. So, it is much easier for Seoul to absorb the costs of sanctions than Pyongyang.
 
Although inter-Korean trade dropped by about 10 percent the year after the limits were in place, the Kaesong factory zone helped trade volumes quickly recover.
                 
It is not clear how useful the sanctions have been in shaping North Korea's behavior. Just months after they were imposed Pyongyang shelled a South Korean island, killing four people.
 
North Korea continues to occasionally threaten attacks on South Korea, develop ballistic missiles, and in February tested its third and largest nuclear device. However in recent months relations have slightly warmed, and their jointly-run Kaesong factory complex was re-opened in September.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Not Jimmy from: Seoul
November 03, 2013 9:28 PM
"However in recent months relations have slightly warmed, and their jointly-run Kaesong factory complex was re-opened in September."

Given the past several decades of North Korean shenannigans, there is no evidence of actual change. This is a lull in North Korea's entirely predictable cycle of threats and apologies. This has allowed the current regime to maintain power, but it is somewhat decaying.

There is a more subtle and gradual change. Two things are flowing into North Korea at an increasing rate, information and foreign currency. Power will move, and things will change.


by: Dorothy from: Nebraska
November 03, 2013 2:04 AM
It seems surprising that the South Korean government is considering lifting sanctions, since only recently North Korea unilaterally stopped trading at a jointly operated site and forced South Korean merchants to return to their home nation. It really requires two sides to make peace.

In Response

by: SrWilliam.
November 03, 2013 3:41 PM
It is a shame they do not respect the 46 Sailors that were killed.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid