North Korea is no doubt an intriguing, unpredictable country. It often sends out conflicting signals to the outside world as seen in one of the latest developments involving an industrial park it runs jointly with South Korea.
Pyongyang, while ratcheting up military tension on the peninsula for months, accepted successive visits to the Gaeseong industrial complex by two foreign business delegations this week. This clearly shows that for the leadership in Pyongyang, saber-rattling is one thing and money is another.
The first delegation that visited the border city in North Korea on Tuesday consisted of about 40 representatives from the Korean-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Seoul. They included executives from big German companies such as Siemens AG and BMW.
On Friday, about 20 delegates from the World Federation of Overseas Korean Traders Association visited the inter-Korean industrial park to discuss investment and business opportunities. The World OKTA is comprised of 130 member associations of ethnic Korean businesspeople from 68 countries.
It marked the first time that the North has opened Gaeseong to foreign visitors since the South Korean-run factories there resumed operations last September after a more than five-month suspension, which was caused by the North’s unilateral closure in protest over the South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises.
The visits also came at a time when the North has been heightening tensions on the peninsula, as seen in the recent firing of artillery, rockets and missiles as well as the threat to conduct another nuclear bomb test.
It has yet to be seen whether the two missions’ visits will result in new investment projects or other business deals. But the fact that the North accepted the delegations at a time when it is intentionally raising tension means it wants to show the world that it has another side.
South Korea and the West would do well to promote investment in the Gaeseong complex since it will certainly contribute to inducing the North to exercise self-restraint and not go to extremes.