North Korea missed its deadline to shut down its Yongbyon nuclear reactor, but reports on semi-official semi-rumors claim that "increased activity" glimpsed in satellite photos indicates preparations for the shutdown.

Although South Korea's economy hasn't exactly been suffering lately, and North Korea is a long way from normal, ratcheting down the nuclear tensions should improve the environment for investors in South Korea.

China realizes how much it has to lose by allowing Kim Jong-Il to remain a loose cannon, and it's sat on its backward neighbor. And since the U.S. seems to have rolled back most of its pursuit of the Macau bank alleged to aid North Korea in moving $25 million related to suspected counterfeit U.S. $100 bills, the clouds are beginning to clear.

Easing of tensions should help grease the wheels of regional commerce, which should be good news for shareholders in Korean area leaders like steelmaker POSCO (NYSE:PKX) or telecom giant SK Telecom (NYSE:SKM).

SK Telecom is a recommendation of Motley Fool Global Gains. A free trial will let you know why.

Comments? Bring them here.

At the time of publication, Seth Jayson had no positions in any company mentioned here. See his latest blog commentary here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. POSCO is an Income Investor pick. Fool rules are here.