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Seoul mulls discussing North Korea development bank at ASEAN summit


Cheong Wa Dae and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are about to begin selecting agenda items for South Korea's special summit with ASEAN in Busan from Nov. 25 to 26. Yonhap

By Yi Whan-woo

South Korea is considering adding the establishment of a development bank exclusively for North Korea to the agenda for its special summit with ASEAN scheduled to take place in Busan next month, according to multiple sources, Wednesday.

The idea of establishing the bank, estimated to be worth 1 trillion won ($835.7 million), was first proposed by Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don to President Moon Jae-in in mid-February during Moon's visit to Busan.

The sources from Cheong Wa Dae, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Busan Metropolitan City said the first two organizations are about to begin selecting agenda items in consultation with ASEAN and are taking Oh's ideas into account.

Analysts, however, were skeptical about the government's move.

They argued the denuclearization dialogue efforts have been jeopardized since Oh's proposal, as seen from the collapse of the second U.S.-North Korea summit in late February, Pyongyang's return to missile tests and the breakdown of its working-level talks with Washington last week.

Moreover, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has not responded to the invitation to attend the South Korea-ASEAN summit to celebrate their 30 years of relations.

The Moon Jae-in administration is still optimistic about Oh's idea, a source said, because it is in line with Moon's "peace-driven" economy that underscores cross-border cooperation.

It said the government can possibly mobilize the Korea Development Bank, Export-Import Bank of Korea and other state-run financial institutions to raise funds accordingly.

"By doing so, the government may be seeking to court the 10 ASEAN member nations, and furthermore, global financial institutions such as the Asia Development Bank (ADB)," the source added.

Another source speculated that the inclusion of Oh's proposal on the agenda can be seen as a gesture to reaffirm the South's commitment to improving ties with the North and resuming dialogue.

Pyongyang has insisted on talking only to Washington, amid prolonged U.S. sanctions despite Moon's role as "mediator."

Park Won-gon, an international relations professor at Handong Global University, assessed Oh's proposal as "something that can be realized only when the U.S.-North Korea dialogue moves on."

"The idea itself is not bad considering there are not many corresponding measures that the U.S. can offer in return for North Korea's possible denuclearization," Park said.

He also said U.S. President Donald Trump has not wanted his country to bear expenses to develop the North's impoverished economy.

Additionally, North Korea fails to meet human rights conditions required by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the ADB as a criterion to receive a loan.

"Oh's proposal is risky to consider at the moment, because it would make President Moon look as if he is begging for dialogue with the North regardless of its latest military provocations," he said.

Yang Moo-jin, a University of North Korean Studies professor, voiced a similar view with Park.

"There has been no case of a development bank that is aimed at helping an individual country. This is why the idea of setting up a development bank to help only North Korea will not win international support," he said.

He suggested international lenders give loans to the North, but only if it makes progress in denuclearization.

The South Korea-ASEAN summit will take place from Nov. 25 to 26 in Busan. It will be their third joint summit, with the previous ones in 2009 on Jeju Island and 2014 in Busan.




Cheong Wa Dae and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are about to begin selecting agenda items for South Korea's special summit with ASEAN in Busan from Nov. 25 to 26. Yonhap

By Yi Whan-woo

South Korea is considering adding the establishment of a development bank exclusively for North Korea to the agenda for its special summit with ASEAN scheduled to take place in Busan next month, according to multiple sources, Wednesday.

The idea of establishing the bank, estimated to be worth 1 trillion won ($835.7 million), was first proposed by Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don to President Moon Jae-in in mid-February during Moon's visit to Busan.

The sources from Cheong Wa Dae, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Busan Metropolitan City said the first two organizations are about to begin selecting agenda items in consultation with ASEAN and are taking Oh's ideas into account.

Analysts, however, were skeptical about the government's move.

They argued the denuclearization dialogue efforts have been jeopardized since Oh's proposal, as seen from the collapse of the second U.S.-North Korea summit in late February, Pyongyang's return to missile tests and the breakdown of its working-level talks with Washington last week.

Moreover, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has not responded to the invitation to attend the South Korea-ASEAN summit to celebrate their 30 years of relations.

The Moon Jae-in administration is still optimistic about Oh's idea, a source said, because it is in line with Moon's "peace-driven" economy that underscores cross-border cooperation.

It said the government can possibly mobilize the Korea Development Bank, Export-Import Bank of Korea and other state-run financial institutions to raise funds accordingly.

"By doing so, the government may be seeking to court the 10 ASEAN member nations, and furthermore, global financial institutions such as the Asia Development Bank (ADB)," the source added.

Another source speculated that the inclusion of Oh's proposal on the agenda can be seen as a gesture to reaffirm the South's commitment to improving ties with the North and resuming dialogue.

Pyongyang has insisted on talking only to Washington, amid prolonged U.S. sanctions despite Moon's role as "mediator."

Park Won-gon, an international relations professor at Handong Global University, assessed Oh's proposal as "something that can be realized only when the U.S.-North Korea dialogue moves on."

"The idea itself is not bad considering there are not many corresponding measures that the U.S. can offer in return for North Korea's possible denuclearization," Park said.

He also said U.S. President Donald Trump has not wanted his country to bear expenses to develop the North's impoverished economy.

Additionally, North Korea fails to meet human rights conditions required by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the ADB as a criterion to receive a loan.

"Oh's proposal is risky to consider at the moment, because it would make President Moon look as if he is begging for dialogue with the North regardless of its latest military provocations," he said.

Yang Moo-jin, a University of North Korean Studies professor, voiced a similar view with Park.

"There has been no case of a development bank that is aimed at helping an individual country. This is why the idea of setting up a development bank to help only North Korea will not win international support," he said.

He suggested international lenders give loans to the North, but only if it makes progress in denuclearization.

The South Korea-ASEAN summit will take place from Nov. 25 to 26 in Busan. It will be their third joint summit, with the previous ones in 2009 on Jeju Island and 2014 in Busan.



Yi Whan-woo yistory@koreatimes.co.kr


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