Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation
Not until the 1970s did South and North Korea engage in exchange and cooperation. It was only after the Korean Red Cross proposed an inter-Korean Red Cross meeting on August 12, 1971 that exchange of business people and goods was proposed through the South-North Coordinating Committee in 1973. After the DPRK Red Cross Society provided relief aid to South Korea following a flood, a number of inter-Korean economic talks were held from November 1984 to November 20, 1985. Overall, the 1970s and 1980s was a period seeking the possibility of inter-Korean exchange and cooperation.
In the late 1980s, the R.O.K. government sought to shift inter-Korean relations of distrust and conflict to one of trust and cooperation, in line with great changes following the collapse of the Communist bloc and an end of the Cold War system. The government announced the 「Special Declaration for National Self-Esteem, Unification, and Prosperity」 on July 7, 1988. As follow-up measures, an institutional foundation for effective inter-Korean exchange and cooperation was laid within the legal framework of South Korea. These include the Measures to Open the Economy toward North Korea (1988.10) to allow inter-Korean trade, the Basic Guidelines on Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation (1989.6.12), the 「Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Act」 (1990.8) and the 「Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund Act」.
Inter-Korean exchange and cooperation proved much more difficult than expected through the years as North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (1993.3), and South Korea suspended Mt. Geumgang tours (2008) and implemented the May 24 Measures (2010). Nonetheless, inter-Korean trade increased steadily, especially through the Gaeseong Industrial Complex (GIC), and the two Koreas continued social and cultural exchanges as well as humanitarian assistance projects including that of religion, sports and those concerning the restoration of a sense of unity.
However, as North Korea continued to conduct missile and nuclear provocations in early 2016, the R.O.K. government temporarily suspended inter-Korean exchange and cooperation projects to pressure the North into denuclearization, including the announcement of the complete shutdown of the GIC, and imposed sanctions on the North in cooperation, with the international community. The government has since provided support to companies that have suffered losses due to the extension of the May 24 Measures and the closure of the GIC.
The R.O.K. government will use all means, including sanctions and dialogue, to denuclearize the North. We will sternly respond to the North’s nuclear and missile provocations while consistently pursuing nongovernmental and nonpolitical exchange and cooperation projects by separating it from the political and military situation within the international community’s framework of North Korea sanctions.
- Exchange of personnel between South and North Korea increased from one person in 1989 to 186,000 persons in 2008.
- Trade between South and North Korea increased from USD 19 million in 1989 to USD 2.714 billion in 2015.
- Yet, due to strained inter-Korean relations, inter-Korean exchange of personnel decreased to 14,000 persons and trade plummeted to USD 333 million in 2016.