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With North Korean threats, is South Korea safe for investment?

South Korean President Park Geun-hye reassured foreign investors despite talk from the North.
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A foreign businessman walks in the Myungdong shopping district on April 11, 2013 in Seoul, South Korea. According to reports a North Korean missile launcher has been moved into firing position as the continuing threats of attack emit from Pyongyang. G8 leaders convened in London to discuss the situation. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

SEOUL, South Korea — We've heard a lot of talk in recent weeks about the military side of the North Korea threat. Today, the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency is reporting that North Korea could have the capabilities to build a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on a missile — even though there's a lot of disagreement over that part.

But how does the threat of military action play for foreign investors in South Korea?

Today, President Park Geun-hye met with foreign investors from Google, Citibank and Siemens — to name a few corporations — in her administration's Blue House, reported the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper. She tried to assure them that her administration would create a stable investment environment despite North Korea's bluster.

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Who pays for North Korea's mind games?

NAALEHU, Hawaii — For a while, pouring a huge proportion of their resources into conventional military buildup gave the northerners an edge that only US forces’ backing of the South could offset. Meanwhile, though, the South Koreans, by focusing their resources on the economy, were becoming rich enough to build a competing military financed with what to them was relative pocket change. Experts these days don’t see North Korea winning an actual war.

Obituary: Korea's unification movement (1998-2013)

Now that North Korea has recalled its workers from the Kaesong Industrial Zone it's farewell to hope for a peaceful unification, at least for now.

SEOUL, South Korea — Now that North Korea has recalled its workers from the Kaesong Industrial Zone — an area north of the DMZ where hundreds of South Korean managers oversee 51,000 North Korean laborers — it's farewell to hope for a peaceful unification, at least for now.

(Leonid Petrov is a Korea expert at Australian National University in Canberra.)

In the late 1990s, the peninsula was on a path towards reconciliation, and possibly unification into a single Korea. Diplomats and reporters were optimistic, pointing out that North Korea had been through a famine that left 1 million dead, and that the communist government could not maintain the status quo.

Proponents called the movement the "Sunshine Policy." The Kaesong Industrial Zone, opened in 2004, was the offspring of that movement — a model for the cooperation that would come.

"Sunshine" reached its height when the South Korean president, Kim Dae-jung, who later won the Nobel peace prize, met his dictatorial counterpart, Kim Jong Il, for a historic summit in Pyongyang. People called him the Asian version of Nelson Mandela.

But critics said any hope for real progress was naive, and that North Korea was playing with Seoul to get aid and concessions that would enrich the regime. Were they right?

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