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(News Focus) (US-NK summit) S. Korea's biz community hails Trump-Kim summit

All News 19:34 June 12, 2018

By Kim Kwang-tae

SEOUL, June 12 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean business community on Tuesday hailed the historic summit between the leaders of North Korea and the United States as it could offer new business opportunities for Asia's fourth-largest economy.

The response comes as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un committed to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula after the summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore.

The two men also committed to establishing "new" bilateral relations and making joint efforts to build a "lasting and stable" peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

So far, North Korea has been under tightened U.N. sanctions as well as U.S. sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests in recent years, a key hurdle that blocked outside investment in North Korea.

After the summit, Trump said Washington's relationship with Pyongyang will be "much different" from what it was, with Kim even predicting that "the world may see a major change" going forward.

This AFP photo shows U.S. President Donald Trump (R) shaking hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un after signing a joint statement at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. (Yonhap)

The agreement could eventually lead to the lifting of international sanctions on Pyongyang, which in turn could allow South Korean firms and those from other countries to make inroads into the closed nation with a population of some 25 million.

"We welcomed the summit between North Korea and the U.S., and we expect the summit could help revitalize the economies in the region through economic exchanges and cooperation," the Korea Employers Federation said in a statement.

The Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry also said it will make thorough preparations for a new era of inter-Korean economic cooperation once conditions are ripe.

Hyundai Motor Group -- the world's fifth-largest automaker by sales -- expressed hope that the summit could fuel growth down the line for its business, though it stopped short of providing any immediate investment plans in North Korea.

Chung Ju-yung, the late founder of Hyundai Group, pioneered a tourism program at the North's mountain resort in 1998. South Korea halted the tour program in 2008 following the shooting death of a South Korean female tourist at the resort, stripping the North of a key source of much-needed hard currency.

Lotte Group, South Korea's fifth-largest conglomerate, whose businesses range from department stores to hotels and fast-food restaurants as well as beverage and confectionery units, vowed to actively cooperate with the South Korean government engagement policy toward its northern neighbor.

Lotte has decided to create a task force to explore business opportunities in North Korea and places like China and Russia that could affect the reclusive country as well.

In April, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korea's Kim held talks at the border village of Panmunjom and reached an agreement on a wide range of measures to ease tensions and boost ties, including complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Kim's summit with Trump could further boost inter-Korean economic cooperation.

"Today's summit injected new hope for a possible South Korean business entry to North Korea and reopening of Kaesong," said Lee Seong-hyon, director of a unification strategy department at the independent Sejong Institute, referring to a stalled inter-Korean joint factory park.

South Korea pulled the plug on the sprawling factory park in North Korea's western border city of Kaesong in February 2016 to punish North Korea for its fourth nuclear test and a long-range rocket launch.

Still, the Trump-Kim summit provided grounds for new optimism among South Korean businessmen who had operated factories in Kaesong as it brightened the prospect of reviving their factories.

"We hope that we can go to the Kaesong Industrial Complex within this year," said Shin Han-yong, head of a private task force that speaks for all 123 South Korean firms that had operated factories in Kaesong.

An official of Yuhan-Kimberly Ltd. was also upbeat on the possible opening of North Korea, saying it means a new market for the maker of sanitary products.

The company plans to initially focus on a forestation project in the country, which has suffered severe deforestation for decades, if the two Koreas resume economic projects.

Last year, the company built a 1.1 hectare tree nursery -- which can produce 450,000 seedlings a year -- for a forestation project in North Korea.

"If Trump Tower in Pyongyang is something more than just a theory, then many other surprising things will happen that defy our expectations," Lee said.


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