News / Asia

Korean Industrial Zone Re-opens

Kim Kiwoong, head of South Korea's delegation, shakes hands with his North Korean counterpart Park Chol Su before their meetingKim Kiwoong, head of South Korea's delegation, shakes hands with his North Korean counterpart Park Chol Su before their meeting
Kim Kiwoong, head of South Korea's delegation, shakes hands with his North Korean counterpart Park Chol Su before their meeting
Kim Kiwoong, head of South Korea's delegation, shakes hands with his North Korean counterpart Park Chol Su before their meeting
Daniel Schearf
North and South Korea have reopened their joint factory zone in Kaesong, just north of their shared border. The restart is seen as the most substantial sign of warming relations between the two sides following tensions earlier this year over Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear tests.  

Lines of trucks and cars crossed South Korea's northern border checkpoint Monday morning on the way to Kaesong, North Korea.
About 800 South Korean managers and their staff entered the suspended, jointly run factory zone at Kaesong with materials and parts to restart production for the first time in months.
South Korean managers crossing the border Monday expressed joy and relief to be getting back to work.
Ji Yoon-tae, deputy chief of a South Korean company at Kaesong, says it has been very tough while the complex was shut down. He says he is sure his company has been having a hard time but, personally, it was really tough. From now on, he says, I hope everything works out well, that the complex becomes revitalized again, and everyone works for a vibrant Kaesong Industrial Complex.
Since its start in 2004, the Kaesong Industrial Complex was a resilient symbol of North-South cooperation, surviving numerous periods of military and political threats.
But Pyongyang in April pulled its contribution to the joint venture, some 53,000 factory workers, amid military tensions with Seoul and Washington.
After months of negotiating, the two Koreas last week reached a deal to reopen the industrial complex with a joint committee to resolve future problems.
South Korean companies say they lost about $1 billion  from the suspension of factories producing textiles, watches, and parts for electronics.
As compensation, the North and South Korea agreed the factory owners would be exempt this year from paying taxes.
Officials from the two sides have been holding weekly meetings to discuss further details, including legal protections for South Korean workers and whether the North Koreans who walked should receive compensation.
The two sides also agreed to invite foreign investment from October, a key demand of Seoul to add international pressure on Pyongyang to discourage future shutdowns.
South Korea's Deputy Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Choi Kyong-lim told the Seoul Foreign Correspondents' Club they hope many Chinese companies, in particular, will invest in Kaesong.
He says the importance of Chinese companies in Kaesong Industrial Complex is easily understood even if he does not explain. The location of Kaesong Industrial Complex is close to China. Also, he says, the regular wage in China is higher than the level of countries in Southeast Asia and continues to increase. He says it is important for Chinese companies to utilize North Korean labor at the Kaesong Industrial Complex where wages are low but productivity is high.
China is North Korea's closest ally and believed to have the most, though limited, influence over Pyongyang.
Choi says South Korean and Chinese officials discussed the legal aspects of products made at Kaesong during recent free trade negotiations.
But it is not clear how much interest Chinese, or any other foreign companies, would have in investing at the factory complex.
The risk of political problems is still high, say political analysts, despite much improved inter-Korean relations.
Cho Bong-hyun, with the Economic Research Center of the Industrial Bank of Korea, says Kaesong at least offers better guarantees than other North Korea investments.

He says some foreign companies have invested and produced in cities in North Korea including Pyongyang. The investment in other cities, he says, has more risks than the Kaesong Industrial Complex. The Kaesong Industrial Complex has been created under the regulation of the Kaesong Industrial Zone, he says, and it is being operated under the agreement between the two Koreas.
So the complex has less risk for investment than others. In addition, he says, Kaesong has better infrastructure for production than other regions so foreign companies prefer it to other cities.
Also Monday, the Korean Red Cross announced the names of 100 North Koreans and 96 South Koreans chosen for next week’s reunions of families divided by the Korean War.
Since 2000, the two Koreas have had 18 such limited reunions of families separated since the three-year conflict that began in 1950.
The popular exchange was halted in 2010 when Seoul blamed Pyongyang for the sinking of a South Korean navy ship that killed 46 sailors. But, as part of warming relations, the two sides agreed in August to resume the meetings.
About 22,000 Koreans were reunited with their relatives through the program since it started in 1985.

VOA Seoul Bureau Producer Youmi Kim contributed to this report.

You May Like

Video Getting to Zero AIDS Infections

More than 35 million people around the world are infected with HIV, a disease that is both preventable and treatable

Children, Childhoods Lost in European Refugee Crisis

According to UNICEF, 190,000 children applied for political asylum in Europe in the first 9 months of this year - twice as many as last year

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs