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Bulk of S. Korean trading firms want to take part in N. Korea projects: poll

The bulk of South Korean trading companies want to take part in North Korean development projects, with many showing an interest in construction, a local poll revealed Sunday.

According to a survey carried out by the Korea International Trade Association on 1,176 companies, 80 percent said they wished to take part in North Korean ventures once international sanctions are lifted.

Expectations are running high that the successful summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last week will lead to Pyongyang's complete denuclearization and the lifting of various restrictions that have blocked all exchange with the reclusive nation.

KITA said that 36.1 percent of the companies polled said they would seek new business opportunities through trade and that 25.1 percent said they wanted to take advantage of low wages in the North. Some 12.5 percent were interested in future social overhead capital projects in the North, while 11.7 percent wanted to use the country to make headway into neighboring China and the Russian Far East.

The Korea International Trade Association building (R) in southern Seoul (Yonhap)
The Korea International Trade Association building (R) in southern Seoul (Yonhap)

By industry, 35.1 percent of local companies viewed infrastructure development as the most promising area, followed by 17.3 percent for electronics, 15.3 percent for tourism and 13.5 percent for textiles and clothing.

The latest survey showed that among those that did not have any plans to enter the North, 22 percent cited a lack of reliable information, while 18.6 percent raised concerns about interference by the North Korean authorities. A further 13.7 percent were worried that future South Korean governments would alter course on North Korea, and 11.6 percent had reservations about sanctions imposed by the United States and the United Nations.

Companies then asked the government to do more to create a favorable environment for cross-border exchange and for joint efforts to build up the North's poor infrastructure, such as roads, electricity and port facilities.

In regards to the effect better inter-Korean relations would have on the national economy, 46.9 percent said they would have a very positive impact, and 39.8 percent said things would be somewhat better. Only 9.4 percent had a neutral view, while those having a negative opinion amounted to 3.9 percent.

In addition, 85.1 percent said improvements in South-North relations would be good for their business.

The international traders organization then said 31.7 percent of companies expected inter-Korean trade to resume in 4-5 years, while 22.3 percent predicted normalization in 2019. (Yonhap)