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

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs