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Moon’s pipe dream

Aug 07,2019
Just a day after President Moon Jae-in underscored that South Korea can catch up with Japan if a “peace economy” is achieved through inter-Korean economic cooperation, North Korea fired missiles into the East Sea. Despite Moon’s suggestion of economic cooperation with North Korea as a solution to Japan’s economic retaliations for the Korean Supreme Court’s rulings over wartime forced labor, Pyongyang doesn’t seem to be listening. If he does not take into account the feasibility of his plans under current circumstances, he will be seen as a purveyor of empty slogans.

First, all inter-Korean economic projects pursued by the Moon administration are stopped due to North Korea’s repeated missile provocations. Without narrowing the gap between Seoul and Washington over such issues as denuclearizing North Korea, lifting international sanctions and resuming operations of the Kaesong Industrial Complex can hardly be considered. Japan took retaliatory actions against South Korea by exploiting schisms in the security cooperation system between Seoul and Washington. To our disappointment, the United States is reluctant to mediate between South Korea and Japan.

Moon’s whole idea of a “peace economy” does not make sense. According to the Bank of Korea, North Korea’s nominal gross domestic product (GDP) stood at a mere 35.7 trillion won ($29.3 billion), even less than 2 percent of ours. It is far-fetched to argue that we can quickly catch up with Japan — whose economy is three times larger than ours — as long as we cooperate with North Korea.

It’s not simply about the size of the economy but about a technological gap between South Korea and Japan. Japan has acquired arguably the strongest competitiveness in basic technology. Our vulnerabilities to Tokyo’s export restrictions result from that technological gap. Despite the public and private sectors’ campaign to achieve technological independence, it takes a long time to reinvent many wheels. Rep. Yoo Seong-min got the point when he asked how we can catch up with Japan technologically by cooperating with North Korea, which is only advanced in nuclear and missile technologies.

Inter-Korean economic cooperation will mostly be a burden for our economy. Even Germany had to struggle with far-reaching repercussions from its unification. If Moon adheres to such rosy visions, he will be called a “daydreamer.” Instead of a pipe dream, the government must find realistic answers to the conflict. The first step would be abandoning its anti-business approach.