The billionaire leader of Samsung’s sprawling business empire will visit North Korea this week along with the heads of nearly a dozen top South Korean corporations, accompanying South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
President Moon will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during the visit — the first trip to Pyongyang by a sitting South Korean president since 2007. Last month, Moon laid out ambitious plans that would dramatically transform and connect the two economies, giving South Korea a land link to the rest of the Asian continent, potentially opening up lucrative trade and infrastructure links. Such plans could eventually benefit Samsung and South Korea’s other huge family-run conglomerates, which are known as chaebol.
“If South Korea can take the initiative to bring chaebol leaders to North Korea … maybe it would be a good start for South Korean [money] to move into Pyongyang,” said Steve Chung, a Korea expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
The business leaders will be meeting with North Korean Vice Premier Ri Ryong Nam, a spokesman for the South Korean president’s office said Monday.
North Korea’s cloistered economy of 25 million people has attractive elements for foreign investors, according to analysts. They include a cheap workforce, a good geographic location and unexploited natural resources. But doing business in North Korea comes with a lot of risks, most notably heavy US and international sanctions on Pyongyang that companies would have to navigate — unless the restrictions are lifted. So it’s doubtful Samsung will be setting up shop in North Korea any time soon.