From rice to nukes, Koreas find little unity
North and South Korean officials meet in high-level talks this week.
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The missile test, the first since North Korea tested seven missiles nearly a year ago, shows that North Korea can take "as long as it wants" to shut down its reactor, he says, and then "come back to the table in a majestic manner" while awaiting more concessions.Skip to next paragraph
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Kim Sung Han, professor at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security, suggests that the second stage of fulfilling the nuclear agreement "will take a lot of time," especially since "everyone thought the first stage would be a brief but technical issue."
He doubts the train will run regularly until well into the second stage, a process that may take years. "We don't have to hurry about that," he says. "Rather than put this before the nuclear issue, we have to be courteous about pushing for an inter-Korean agenda."
One of the top items, though, is the industrial zone here in Kaesong, where 22 South Korean companies are now producing such light industrial products as clothing, shoes, cosmetics, and watches. South Korean managers and senior technicians supervise some 15,000 Korean workers – the vanguard of a force that is to climb some day to several hundred thousand working for several hundred companies.
For now, trucks clog the highway from the zone to South Korea, bringing finished products south and returning with parts and supplies. The highway parallels the track, all at a cost so far of more than $500 million, all paid for by South Korea.
The railroad, though, inspires dreams far beyond this zone. North Korean briefers display wall maps with lights showing a rail network over which goods could move from South Korea through the North to China and Russia – and on to Europe. A young briefer falls back on what appears a rehearsed response when asked when the train will run again, at least as far as the zone.
"The next stage of the railroad will be the subject of negotiations," she says. "All phases of the negotiation will be completed as soon as possible." Asked about the need for a railroad to replace the inefficient trucks, she says, "Delivery of raw materials and transportation of raw materials will depend on negotiations" – and, again, "all phases of negotiation will be completed as soon as possible." The response is about the same as that given by North Korean officials to visitors to Pyongyang when asked when they will fulfill the nuclear agreement.
In the meantime, Park Sung Chul, owner of a clothing factory, observes the strict rules that divide his 1,000 North Korean workers from him and his managers from South Korea. "We felt we have to do this with the help of God," he says, but his North Korean interpreter turns toward him, hesitates on "God," and substitutes "faith."
Mr. Park talks in a third-floor room that displays a cross and stained-glass windows – a chapel for daily services as well as briefings – while his North Korean workers below sit at rows of industrial sewing machines. "Close interaction is very difficult," he says. "We do as much we can. We greet the workers in the morning and when they go from work."
Never do he and his managers invite North Koreans to the chapel or try to give them religious material. "We are building for the future with our minds filled with the love of God," says the voice on a briefing film, but that's a message the North Koreans are not going to hear. "They will never allow it," says Park. "It is strictly forbidden."