News / Asia

S. Korean Workers Blocked from Kaesong Industrial Zone

South Korean vehicles turn back after they were refused for entry to North Korea's city of Kaesong, at the customs, immigration and quarantine office in Paju, South Korea, near the border village of Panmunjom, April 3, 2013.
South Korean vehicles turn back after they were refused for entry to North Korea's city of Kaesong, at the customs, immigration and quarantine office in Paju, South Korea, near the border village of Panmunjom, April 3, 2013.
North Korea on Wednesday suspended entry of South Koreans workers into a joint industrial zone just north of the border. It is the latest sign of rapidly escalating tension on the peninsula and puts at risk one of the last remaining signs of cooperation between the two foes.

Hundreds of South Korean managers commute to the joint factory park, just north of the fortified border separating the two Koreas. But those who tried to ride into the Kaesong Industrial complex Wednesday morning found they were denied entry permits by the North Koreans.

North Korea, Kaesong Industrial ComplexNorth Korea, Kaesong Industrial Complex
x
North Korea, Kaesong Industrial Complex
North Korea, Kaesong Industrial Complex
Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyun-suk in Seoul expressed strong regret about North Korea's action. He said blocking access will have ramifications, if supplies and food cannot be replenished.

Kim says this disruption poses a “serious obstacle to the proper operation” of the complex.

Of the approximately 800 South Koreans who had stayed overnight in the zone, about 50 were expected to leave Wednesday, with the rest choosing to stay there, for now.

There has been concern that, if hostilities were to erupt between the two countries, any South Koreans at Kaesong could be potential hostages.

  • South Korean soldiers patrol along a barbed-wire fence, near the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul, April 5, 2013.
  • A couple looks at a map showing the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas, at the Imjingak pavilion in Paju, north of Seoul, April 5, 2013.
  • U.S. Army Patriot missile air defence artillery batteries are seen at U.S. Osan air base in Osan, south of Seoul, April 5, 2013.
  • South Korean soldiers take part in military training near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul, April 4, 2013.
  • U.S. soldiers wear gas masks while attending a demonstration of their equipment during a ceremony to recognize the battalion's official return to the 2nd Infantry Division based in South Korea at Camp Stanley in Uijeongbu, north of Seoul, April 4, 2013.
  • South Korean vehicles turn back after being refused entry to Kaesong, North Korea, April 3, 2013.
  • Anti-war protesters raise signs during a rally denouncing the joint military drills between the South Korea and the United States near the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, April 3, 2013.
  • North Koreans attend a rally against the United States and South Korea in Nampo, North Korea, April 3, 2013.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un presides over a plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang March 31, 2013 in this picture released by the North's official KCNA news agency.

Wednesday, South Korea's defense minister told governing party members of the National Assembly that a “contingency plan, including possible military action,” should be developed should there be such a serious situation.

Although about 125 South Korean companies have factories there, the unique project, which has been producing household goods since 2004, is of greater economic value to North Korea.

Fifty-thousand of its factory workers are North Koreans and the complex brings in $2 billion annually of desperately needed hard currency for the impoverished and isolated country.

Kaesong Joint Industrial Complex

-Started producing goods in 2004
-Employs about 53,000 North Koreans
-120 South Korean businesses operate there
-Hailed as rare example of North/South cooperation
-Generates $2 billion in trade annually for North
-Located 10 kilometers north of border
North Korea's move to bar, at least temporarily, the entry of South Koreans to Kaesong comes a day after Pyongyang announced it would restart operations at its Yongbyon reactor complex to make additional nuclear weapons. North Korea is under United Nations sanctions for its nuclear and ballistic missile development.

In recent weeks, North Korea has made a series of bellicose declarations. It has renounced the 1953 armistice, vowed a preemptive nuclear strike on the United States and South Korea and declared a state of war between the North and South.

General James Thurman, commander of the 28,000 U.S. forces in the South, told ABC News at the Joint Security Area inside the demilitarized zone the situation is as tense as any time since he assumed command in mid-2011.

“The situation is volatile and it is dangerous," he said.

When asked his greatest fear with Kim Jong Un, General Thurman stated "a miscalculation and an impulsive decision that causes a kinetic provocation.”

The general also heads the U.S.-led United Nations command and would be in charge of South Korean forces under a unified command, should all-out war begin.

The two Koreas faced each other for three years during a war in the early 1950's that devastated the peninsula. Open hostilities ended with an armistice signed by North Korea, China and the U.S.-led UN command, representing 16 countries. South Korea was not a signatory.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs