Top executives of conglomerates are in a dilemma since presidential chief of staff Im Jong-seok asked them on Monday to accompany President Moon Jae-in to Pyongyang for his third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Sept. 18-20.
They worry that they could be put on a U.S. watchlist if they go along or fall foul of the Moon administration if they do not.
Many apparently do not want to be included in Moon's entourage. "Companies that do business with the U.S. are naturally nervous because of the North Korea sanctions," a top executive of a conglomerate said. "Once you're on Washington's watchlist, you'll suffer a lot of inconvenience even if you
Nevertheless, most of the 20 largest business groups are currently under investigation by any number of government agencies and can ill afford to annoy the government.
Businesses are complaining that Cheong Wa Dae is twisting their arm now even though they will only be able to do business with the North once sanctions are eased. "Many businesspeople suspect that the government is using businesses to help ease sanctions by forcing them to travel to Pyongyang under these circumstances," one executive complained.
Meanwhile, Im also formally invited the leaders of five ruling and opposition parties to accompany Moon, but the leaders from the main opposition Liberty Korea Party and the minor opposition Bareun Mirae Party including National Assembly speaker Moon Hee-sang immediately refused.