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 Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.