Deteriorating relations lead North Korea to halt all economic cooperation with South

North Korea has voted to abolish all economic cooperation agreements with South Korea as relations between the two countries deteriorate. This decision comes after Pyongyang declared Seoul its main enemy, dissolved agencies dedicated to reunification, and threatened to occupy the South during war.

The Supreme People’s Assembly, which adopts policy dictated by the ruling Workers’ Party, voted to scrap the law on inter-Korean economic cooperation. This decision reflects the deadlock in relations between the two Koreas, with key projects suspended for years as Pyongyang increases its weapons development and Seoul bolsters its military cooperation with the United States and Japan.

In addition to abolishing the law on economic cooperation, the assembly also scrapped laws on the operation of the Mount Kumgang tourism project, which was a symbol of economic cooperation between the two countries. This project drew nearly two million South Korean visitors before being suspended in 2008 when a tourist was shot dead by North Korean guards.

The Mount Kumgang resort was once one of the two largest inter-Korean projects, along with the now-shuttered Kaesong industrial zone. South Korea pulled out of the venture in 2016 in response to North Korean nuclear tests and missile launches.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol called Pyongyang’s move “an extraordinary change” but said it was hard to understand their logic. He emphasized that the North Korean leadership is “not a rational group” and expressed willingness to engage with the North and provide aid if needed.

Restarting tourism business could offer North Korea a means of generating cash, but it could also violate international sanctions imposed on Pyongyang over its weapons programs.

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