Hopeful on Korean trade, not so much on North relations

South Korean ambassador Han Duk-soo stopped by the Inquirer Editorial Board Thursday with a message of hope for Philadelphia businesses - at least, where it concerned the propsects for congressional approval of a history-making trade agreement with the United States.

That's potentially good news for a number of firms in the region, including companies working with Korean firms to finish rail cars for SEPTA. Han said he hopes to see movement on the trade deal in March, with a final vote required within 90 days under international trade rules.

On improving relations with North Korea, though, Han said he wasn't optimistic that things would improve in the short-term. He used the term "irrational" at several points to describe actions by North Korea, which included the torpedoing of a ship and shelling of a South Korean island in the fall.

The provocation happened just as the two countries were pondering new multi-nation talks over North Korea's nuclear ambitions, so it isn't surprising that there isn't much hope right now for improved relations. (And they weren't all that cordial before this latest blow-up.)

If angry demonstrations Wednesday in South Korea, timed to the birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, are any indication, the two nations won't be exchanging greeting cards any time soon.