As a result of South Korea’s restrictions on shipping and travel to the North, Kim Jung-tae, a Seoul-based businessman, says he has lost $30 million in potential earnings, and all of his initial $15 million investment. Kim had hoped to open a clothing manufacturer in 2009 and planned to use a factory in Pyongyang with 600 employees. He’d already been through five years of negotiations with the North Korean government and another five years of factory construction and hiring.
But in April 2009, Kim, who’d traveled to the North 95 times, encountered a problem. The Ministry of Unification would no longer approve his visa.
That meant Kim couldn’t oversee the factory’s opening. And he couldn’t send technicians to train the North Korean workers.
“I called the ministry and appealed, and I have complained several times,” Kim said. “I’ve visited in person. But everything has been denied.”
Kim recently received photos of the abandoned textile machines, corroded and no longer usable. Kim’s bank foreclosed on his home and a commercial property in Seoul. He rents a room from his son. At age 69, Kim says, he has given up hope on his investment.