SEOUL – Can trade and commerce foster peace and mutual understanding between hostile governments? When it comes to the Koreas, this question may seem to be beside the point, given the ruthless purge now underway in the North. But it remains an essential consideration for the longer-term future of North Korea and other outcast regimes.
The Kaesong Industrial Complex, a joint venture of the North and South Korean governments, is both a tribute to the concept of diplomatic reconciliation through business and a difficult test of its feasibility. Roughly 50,000 North Korean workers are employed in 123 factories that produce about $450 million worth of goods (mainly textiles, shoes, and household goods).