May 11 (UPI) — South Korean businesses forced to leave their assets at a jointly operated factory park in North Korea are anticipating better prospects under the new administration of President Moon Jae-in.
Moon, who won the election Tuesday by a landslide, had said in the course of his campaign the Kaesong Industrial Complex should be reopened and economic exchange strengthened to ease tensions.
Seoul suspended operations at Kaesong in February 2016, after officials of the former Park Geun-hye administration said the revenue North Korea earned from factories was being used to fund Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.
The reopening of Kaesong might not be a priority for Moon, and such a move could be found in violation of United Nations Security Council sanctions resolutions.
None of those circumstances, however, has prevented South Korea’s Kaesong entrepreneurs from expecting a return to business as usual.
South Korean news service News Tomato reported Wednesday that Moon’s election has buoyed expectations.
Park Nam-Seo, the chief executive of Combase, a South Korean manufacturer of printer cartridges, said the “change in administration has given our companies great hope.”
“The vast majority of companies [in Kaesong] did not go for profit, but because of a calling. We hope the complex reopens,” Park said, referring to the significance of Kaesong as an emblem of inter-Korea exchange.
Many Kaesong businesses want Moon to hold to his promise of not only reopening the factory park but also to stick to his proposal to expand the complex by about another 25 square miles.
Businesses were profitable. In 2015, more than $515 million worth of textiles, electronic parts and other goods were produced at the factories.
Moon’s appointees, including his new chief of staff Im Jong-seok, and intelligence chief Seo Hoon, have a background in conciliatory approaches to North Korea during previous liberal administrations.
But Yang Moon-soo, an analyst with the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said it would be difficult to break the connections between Kaesong and Kim Jong Un‘s weapons development.
On Wednesday the stocks of companies that previously conducted North Korea business, including the parent firm of Hyundai Asan, rose more than 20 percent.