Rutherford: Unified Korea Would Be Car-Building Paradise

Mark Stevenson
by Mark Stevenson
rutherford unified korea would be car building paradise

Like two brothers who really, really, really can’t get along (I can’t stress enough how much they don’t get along) no matter how hard they supposedly try, the Koreas have a hot/cold relationship, to put it mildly.

One moment, the brothers are manufacturing trinkets together in Kaesong Industrial Region, a special administrative region in the DPRK. The next, the North is threatening to bomb everyone and the South shuts off the water and electricity service (literally) to its brother’s apartment.

But what if the Koreas unified; became whole again? Mike Rutherford of AutoExpress thinks it would be a car-building paradise, with Hyundai, Kia, Samsung, and SsangYong best poised to take advantage of low-cost Northern labor and cheap, cheap land.

In a short editorial over the weekend, Rutherford set the stage for his thesis by stating the South is just too darn successful and it’s outgrowing its own abode:

Hyundai Group reckons it’s built 100 million vehicles so far. But the firm has grown so huge down south that it’s running out of factory land, road space, natural resources, power stations and production line employees. That’s why it and other vehicle producers – including Samsung – need the greenfield sites and countless millions of hungry, willing and able workers up north.

You hear that? Hyundai needs North Korea to grow. Instead of expanding to, um, a country with a more friendly political climate, Rutherford believes (or at least pretends to believe) that a unified Korea would provide untold benefits to the car-building industry in the region.

Except for one little issue: the Koreas, while ethnically the same, have been separate since 1945. One is an industrial powerhouse. The other is a state on welfare. (Not a welfare state. That’s a very different thing.) On a regular basis, the Koreas trade barbs and blows. More money is spent fighting each other (the two are still technically at war) than any economic benefit generated by Kaesong Industrial Region, the area in DPRK that’s administered by the North and financially supported by the South.

And this is where Rutherford’s argument completely falls apart: The very cooperation that he provides as an example of evidence of future Korea reunification has been shut down multiple times for various reasons, and it currently sits dormant thanks to Kim Jong-un’s latest lunacy and the South’s reactions to it. Kaesong is a make-work project that allows the South to put boots on the ground in the North, and it’s certainly not indicative of a grand coming together.

While it’s fun to play “what if” and posit an idea now and then, the reality of a unified Korea is further off than it has been in decades.

Don’t count on North Korean Kia Rios in our lifetime, folks.

[Image: J.A. de Roo/Wikimedia ( CC BY-SA 3.0)]

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  • Johnster Johnster on May 02, 2016

    I've heard stories about how illegal North Korean immigrants have made their way into China and they'll do just about anything for wages below that that native Chinese get. The ethnic Koreans often pose as teenagers and get away with it because they have experienced years of malnutrition and are, on average, about a foot shorter than most Chinese of the same age. I've also heard that many North Koreans have suffered from minor brain damage as the result of many years of malnutrition. I also read a story about a North Korean electrician who immigrated to the South Korea. He told about how television and radio broadcasts from South Korea were blocked from being received in North Korea, and how when he was doing repairs he "accidentally" managed to catch a T.V. broadcast from South Korea. He said he watched part of a sit-com in which two women who lived in the same apartment building were fighting over a parking place. He went on to say that it completely blew his mind to think that people in South Korea were wealthy enough to afford privately-owned cars.

  • Pch101 Pch101 on May 03, 2016

    "Hyundai needs North Korea to grow." Hyundai is already operating production facilities in third-world locations such as India, Brazil and Alabama.

    • See 6 previous
    • VoGo VoGo on May 03, 2016

      @Corey Lewis THAT's funny!