News / Asia

    South Korea Calling Home Remaining Managers at Kaesong Complex

    A North Korean guard post (bottom, C) is pictured from the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul, as the Kaesong inter-Korean industrial complex is seen in the background. (2011 File)A North Korean guard post (bottom, C) is pictured from the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul, as the Kaesong inter-Korean industrial complex is seen in the background. (2011 File)
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    A North Korean guard post (bottom, C) is pictured from the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul, as the Kaesong inter-Korean industrial complex is seen in the background. (2011 File)
    A North Korean guard post (bottom, C) is pictured from the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul, as the Kaesong inter-Korean industrial complex is seen in the background. (2011 File)
    The only remaining economic link between the two Koreas, already on the edge of falling apart, further frazzled on Friday. South Korea is recommending its remaining citizens at the idled Kaesong industrial complex in the North return home.
     
    The top government official in Seoul charged with handling North-South relations said the time has come for South Koreans remaining at the Kaesong factory zone to return home.
     
    Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said the government has made an "unavoidable decision" for everyone remaining at the complex to return for their protection because of North Korea's "unfair measures which created difficulties for South Korean citizens still there."
     
    Ryoo also is calling for North Korea to ensure the safe passage of the South Koreans out of Kaesong and to protect their equipment and property that will remain at the complex.
     
    South Korea's president, Park Geun-hye - meeting earlier in the day with her security-related ministers - questioned how much longer they should wait for a resolution to the issue of the idled Kaesong industrial zone.
     
    The president said the prolonged suspension, due to North Korea's action, is taking a heavy toll on South Korean companies and the people there who have not been able to be resupplied with food and materials since April 3.

    • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Turf Institute of the Bioengineering Branch under the State Academy of Sciences in Pyongyang. (KCNA)
    • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a construction site of the North Korean army, May 7, 2013. (KCNA)
    • South Korean protesters wear masks of U.S. President Barack Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye during a rally denouncing their policy toward North Korea near the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, May 6, 2013.
    • South Korean vehicles returning from North Korea's Kaesong arrive at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea, April 30, 2013.
    • A South Korean vehicle loaded with goods from North Korea's Kaesong arrives at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea, April 30, 2013.
    • A TV reporter prepares for a news report in front of an empty gate at the customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) office in Paju, South Korea, April 29, 2013.
    • An open gate at a military checkpoint of the inter-Korean transit office in the border city of Paju on April 29, 2013.
    • Media wait for South Koreans returning home from North Korea's Kaesong at the customs office near the border village of Panmunjom that separates the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, April 29, 2013.

    Seoul on Thursday had given Pyongyang little more than 24 hours to respond to an offer of official talks on the fate of their joint venture. Otherwise, the government warned, it would take significant measures regarding the complex, located just north of the border.
     
    Two hours after Friday's deadline passed, Pyongyang rebuffed Seoul's offer of talks as "fraudulent," declaring any further ultimatums from South Korean officials will lead to "their final destruction."
     
    The statement is in the name of a spokesman for the policy department of North Korea's national defense commission.
     
    The commission is the highest-level state organ whose first chairman is the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un.
     
    An announcer on the central broadcasting station in Pyongyang read the 10-minute long statement, which informed Seoul that if it is so anxious about the safety of the South Koreans remaining at the complex, then it should withdraw them and the North "will take necessary humanitarian measures to guarantee their safety."
     
    The announcer, also quoting the spokesman, concludes with a warning that if South Korean authorities continue to aggravate the situation, the North will take "final and decisive significant measures" before the South can enact their threatened "significant measures."
     
    The Kaesong industrial zone is primarily composed of small textile factories, operated by South Koreans.
     
    During normal operations at Kaesong about 800 South Korean managers of more than 120 factories supervised 53,000 North Korean workers.
     
    Officials say 176 South Koreans and one Chinese national remained inside the complex as of Friday afternoon.
     
    The Kaesong project, opened in 2004 during the South's "Sunshine Policy" of engagement with the North, was hailed as a hallmark of cooperation between the two Koreas, which lack diplomatic relations and have technically remained at war since the early 1950s.
     
    In exchange for cheap labor, the impoverished and isolated North gained a significant source of hard currency from Kaesong. The bulk of the workers' salaries was retained by the North Korean government.
     
    North Korea, nearly three weeks ago, pulled out its workers from the complex and prohibited fresh supplies to Kaesong from the South.
     
    North Korea said it took the action to protest Seoul using the project to insult Pyongyang's leadership.
     
    The impasse over Kaesong comes amid sharply rising tension on the Korean peninsula.
     
    North Korea has in recent weeks warned of imminent warfare, contending joint military drills between South Korea and the United States are a prelude to an invasion.
     
    Although North Korea frequently makes such claims when Seoul and Washington conduct their annual war games, this year Pyongyang issued unprecedented and specific warnings, including that it would conduct a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States.
     
    North Korea's ballistic missile and atomic weapons development, which continues in defiance of U.N. sanctions, is of high concern to the international community. Most defense analysts do not believe Pyongyang yet has the capability to deploy a miniaturized nuclear warhead atop a multi-stage rocket.

    Steve Herman

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

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Georhe Hilbert
    April 26, 2013 8:58 PM
    "...South's "Sunshine Policy"..." Is this anything like Hope and Change? Seems like there is sunshine shining out of somewhere in both.

    by: danR from: Vancouver
    April 26, 2013 2:38 PM
    Pyongyang wants it all; Kaesong is a whatever as far as they're concerned. Obama plays a pretty good Neville Chamberlain.

    Two intelligence briefings this month that need more air-time:

    1. N.K. options for nuclear delivery are not restricted to missiles; the report mentioned 'unconventional' means, something I've been hammering away at for at least a year now.
    2. N.K. leapfrogging development stages to arrive at compact nukes: this is a plausible alternative explanation for the long test intervals since 2006; that Pyongyang is not lacking ability, they are being very careful. In a sense they are N.K.'s dark-side version of Samsung.

    For that reason, I don't hold your option (2) as an option: between clandestine delivery and compact nukes, estimated uranium bombs potential and 6-8 plutonium weapons current capacity, a huge storehouse of chemical reserves, the time has come for a first strike on Kim&Co., preferably in the May-July window. Any later would increase the suffering through 2013-14 Winter.

    N.K. does not 'want' war, they want Korea. All of it. If war is needed for that objective, they will try it.
    In Response

    by: danR from: Vancouver
    April 26, 2013 4:45 PM
    "I don't hold your option (2) as an option..."

    Sorry, this was in reply to an article elsewhere.

    by: John C. Kimbrough from: Brooklyn, New York
    April 26, 2013 7:44 AM
    There is and has always been much animosity between various regions and countries in Asia. There always will be. Even within South Korea there has been negative feelings to people from other regions within the country. This is true to some extent within all of the countries of Asia. Things are made more complicated and complex because Buddhism has been weakened and corrupted by materialism and consumerism, and individual men set themselves up as being iconic and godlike figures. It seems that Korea would be better off if it was one country, but then Japan and China would feel threatened in some way. Nationalism and the tendency to look down on other countries, nationalities and ethnic groups just makes things worse. Countries, cultures, societies and people who feel such a way are condemned to future suffering........

    by: ramalingam venkatraju from: india coimbatore 1
    April 26, 2013 7:38 AM
    Why stil no exchange of Bombs, just shows, going on, both decided to explore the nuclear, bio-chemical bombs, just start tigers let rest of the world see them, and U.S, also sell bombs to rest of the world, to make their nation stable.

    by: Linda from: Australia
    April 26, 2013 7:27 AM
    I also want to know why other people are not concerned about this issue and no letting their voice be heard?

    by: TONE from: USA
    April 26, 2013 7:22 AM
    I think it is time to clean house over there.
    In Response

    by: danR from: Vancouver
    April 26, 2013 2:40 PM
    Time to clean Kim's clock. His ticking time-bomb, let's say.

    by: John from: Calif
    April 26, 2013 7:20 AM
    N. Korea....what a pathetic government who constantly shoots itself in the foot. A little chubby boy throwing his tantrum as the world laughs at his mentality.

    by: Linda from: Australia
    April 26, 2013 7:19 AM
    I have been following the explosive situation on the Korean peninsular for months as have hundreds of thousands other concerned citizens of the world. As well as, keeping up with the the North Korean 'Rodong Sinmum' North Korean Website . Enough is enough they can not hold the world to ransom any longer over a nuclear strike, as a mother and citizen of this world the only way it seems to me to stop a bully is call their bluff. Their way of thinking is that they are isolated and they can do whatever is best for their country but hey! Thats not the way the world is anymore we are global, what happens 3,000 miles away effects us.

    We only have one planet and each of us are only given one life. This bellicose rhetoric of damaging the security and mental health of lives of people who want to just give their families a good life who are non-political who trust their leaders just want the Korean, USA and allies to come to an agreement or let the chips fall where they should. The north Korean people are not to blame they are a impoverished people are feed a daily diet of hero worship about their leader and have little or no knowledge of the outside world. But guess what the world is out here and we have the same feelings and aspirations in life. North Korea needs to back down on their nuclear build up for protection and threats and understand the old ways of their ancestors are as dead as their bones. One planet one life.

    by: John Livingston from: Fort Worth Texas
    April 26, 2013 7:13 AM
    Greed gone awry, the south built a complex in the north to take advantage of slave labor. The government retains most of the workers wages, that is ridiculous for a democratic government to support in the name of profit, I wish it would start happening to more American companies who are doing the same thing by using Chinese labor camps. Apple via Foxxcon.

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