- The Washington Times - Monday, June 11, 2001

The South Korean official who negotiated his nations 1997 bailout by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) urged the international community yesterday to extend similar assistance to North Koreas shattered economy.
"To encourage North Korea to open its door, we should seriously think about letting them join multinational financial institutions," said Lim Chang-yuel, governor of Kyonggi Province, which surrounds Seoul and extends to the border with North Korea.
As deputy prime minister in 1997, Mr. Lim negotiated a $55 billion bailout with the IMF in the weeks before the election of South Koreas current president, Kim Dae-jung.
An economist at the time with no party affiliation, he joined Mr. Kims Millennium Democratic Party and served as finance minister for a year and a half before running for governor.
For North Korea, Mr. Lim envisions something far more modest than the massive infusion of credit that helped the South escape bankruptcy and begin growing again.
Just allowing the North to join the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the World Bank and the IMF would mark a huge step toward ending the communist states self-imposed isolation, he said.
It would require them to open their books, welcome international delegations and move toward a market-oriented system, and become more friendly with other nations, Mr. Lim said in an interview.
Last week, the Bush administration announced it would reopen talks with Pyongyang, resuming a process that had gained speed, though to an uncertain end, in the final weeks of the Clinton administration.
That decision was welcomed by Mr. Lim and other South Korean officials, who seek to continue exchanges, trade, tourism and other contacts begun in the past three years.
As a governor, Mr. Lims primary focus is bringing foreign investment to the outer suburbs of Seoul a task that brought him to the United States with 35 South Korean businessmen.
He calls his province, the home of one in five South Koreans, the "engine of growth" for South Korea and boasts that it has attracted $8.1 billion in foreign investment in the past three years.
Outside investment is often a dicey topic in South Korea, especially given its history of labor unrest. Militant union leaders at a Daewoo plant east of Seoul now threaten to hurl Molotov cocktails through auto showrooms if General Motors successfully concludes negotiations to buy the bankrupt company.
But Mr. Kim bristled at suggestions the South Koreans are hostile to foreign investment, noting that one-third of the investment in the nations stock market comes from abroad, and that several of the nations top banks have been purchased by foreign companies.
"In every society you have radical groups, but [they] should not be generalized as a majority," he said of Daewoos militant unionists.
"Thousands of Daewoo workers have signed a petition [saying] please take over our factory," Mr. Lim said.
Workers at a plant in Pupyong continue to churn out cars and hand out surveys showing that a majority favor the proposed GM takeover.
Since the December 1997 crisis, the economy has resumed growth, and unemployment, which peaked at more than 8 percent, has fallen to 3.8 percent.

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