87% of S. Korean firms willing to do business in N. Korea if peninsula unified

August 10, 2015

SEOUL (Yonhap) — A majority of South Korean companies are interested in doing business in North Korea after the divided peninsula is unified, but most think strained inter-Korean relations may make a united Korea unlikely, a poll showed Monday.

According to the survey of 500 South Korean companies by the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), 87 percent of the respondents said they have or will have an interest in doing business in the North after unification.

Some 31 percent of the respondents said they will “actively” push to do business in the North, with 56 percent saying they will do so “if conditions are met.” the poll showed.

According to the poll, the respondents said they want to be involved in developing natural resources and infrastructure, such as bridges and roads, in the North, with the border city of Kaesong and Haeju, a city near the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea, picked as their most desired places to do business.

The poll also showed that 37 percent want to directly invest in facilities, with 28 percent saying they want to subcontract work to North Korean companies.

But the respondents replied that inter-Korean relations are not making progress toward unification. Some 70 percent said that inter-Korean ties “are stalled.”

The Seoul-Pyongyang ties have been strained since 2010, when the South imposed sanctions banning economic and cultural exchanges with the North following the North’s torpedoing of a South Korean warship and its shelling of a border island.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has called on North Korea to join forces for inter-Korean reconciliation by abandoning its nuclear weapons program, but North Korea has vowed to develop its economy and nuclear arsenal, viewing its nuclear programs as a powerful deterrent against what it claims is Washington’s hostile policy against it.

“Inter-Korean economic cooperation would help reduce the cost for unification,” said the KCCI. “Various exchanges at private levels should be increased,” it said.

Earlier, the Seoul government voiced hope that strained inter-Korean relations will begin to improve in the near future. It has said it will actively support inter-Korean cultural and sports exchanges.