11/06/2006, 00.00
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Economic and political groups in favour of open channels to the North

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
More than 70 per cent of all South Korean companies involved in intra-Korean economic projects want to continue ties to Stalinist regime. President Roh, meanwhile, appoints four "doves" despite US displeasure.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – More than 70 per cent of South Korean involved in intra-Korean economic projects firms do not want inter-Korean economic projects to be discontinued because of North Korea's October 9 nuclear test, this according to a survey by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The survey of 200 South Korean big and small firms by the business interest group reported that 88 per cent called for the continuous operation of the Kaesŏng Industrial Complex plant.

However, of the 88 per cent who were for the economic projects, about 46 per cent said South Korea should take a more cautious attitude toward the joint industrial complex, whilst the remaining 42 per cent urged full operation of the Kaesŏng plant no matter what.

The survey results are very important given accusations by the United States that some companies are involved in business activities that are helping the communist regime to develop weapons of mass destruction. It shows that a majority of South Korean investors and people want to maintain ties and humanitarian aid to the North.

President Roh Moo-hyun's appointment of  "doves" to four key posts—defence unification, secret services and foreign affairs—in his November 1 cabinet reshuffle is an another signal that he wants to maintain the "sunshine policy" vis-à-vis North Korea inaugurated by his Kim Dae-jung, a policy that is based on cooperation and dialogue with the Stalinist regime of 'dear leader' Kim jong-il.

Some analysts view it the decision though as a move to challenge the US administration's hard-line policy toward the North. In particular, the appointment of Song Min-soon as minister of foreign affairs and trade has not gone down well in Washington for he publicly expressed objections to sanctions against Pyongyang by the international community.

Moreover, at a forum in Seoul on October 18, Mr Song called the United States a nation that "has fought the most wars in the history of humankind, given the number of years of its establishment and existence."

"After the North's nuclear test, many in South Korea and the United States wanted Roh to recognise the problems with his policy and revise it. But the reshuffle shows that Roh has no such intention,'' said Park Jin-hyun, associate dean of the Graduate School of International Studies at Seoul National University.

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