News / Asia

South Korean Workers at Kaesong Return Home

South Korean soldiers patrol on the Grand Unification Bridge leading to the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea, south of the demilitarized zone separating the North from South Korea in Paju, north of Seoul, April 29, 2013.South Korean soldiers patrol on the Grand Unification Bridge leading to the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea, south of the demilitarized zone separating the North from South Korea in Paju, north of Seoul, April 29, 2013.
x
South Korean soldiers patrol on the Grand Unification Bridge leading to the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea, south of the demilitarized zone separating the North from South Korea in Paju, north of Seoul, April 29, 2013.
South Korean soldiers patrol on the Grand Unification Bridge leading to the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea, south of the demilitarized zone separating the North from South Korea in Paju, north of Seoul, April 29, 2013.
All but seven of the remaining South Korean workers at the only joint venture with the North have returned home late Monday.

Forty-three of the last 50 South Korean workers at the Kaesong industrial complex were given permission by North Korea to cross the border back into the South and have done so.

The Unification Ministry in Seoul says five personnel, including the chairman of the Kaesong Industrial Development Management Committee, plus two telecommunications company employees will remain in the zone to negotiate "unresolved issues."

Among them are unpaid wages for the 53,000 North Korean workers who were pulled out of Kaesong by their government on April 9.

  • 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.

Chance remains for deal

While her foreign minister emphasizes the window for dialogue remains open on the fate of the zone, South Korean President Park Geun-hye is criticizing Pyongyang as "too unpredictable" in view of its decision to abruptly remove all of the factory workers.

The president questions "who would be willing to make investments in North Korea" after the existing mutual agreement about Kaesong has abruptly turned "into bubbles." She said her government will do its best to provide substantial support for the 123 businesses and their workers "so as to help them not lose hope."

Some of the remaining factory managers expressed reluctance to leave at their government's request, worried their assets will be seized by the North.

The association of South Korean companies at Kaesong estimates the financial loss to members from the suspension of production will exceed $2.5 billion.

Workers are concerned

The association's president, Han Jae-kwon, said factory owners are distraught by the course of events. Han said they want to ensure their equipment and materials remaining in the complex will be protected. And the association desires to see Seoul and Pyongyang engage in discussions so Kaesong can return to normal operations.

There is still a glimmer of hope the project can be revived. North Korea has not declared the zone to be permanently shut down. South Korea supplies the electricity and has not announced any plans to switch it off.

A power substation in the South sends electricity to a 100,000 kilowatt South Korean-built distribution center in Kaesong, which supplies the facilities there. North Korea is not able to generate sufficient electricity for its own needs.

South Korea's defense ministry says it and U.S. forces are closely monitoring the region to detect any signs of military movements by the North into Kaesong, which is 58 kilometers from the South Korean capital, Seoul.

South Korea and the U.S. on Monday concluded their eight-week military exercise on Monday, "Foal Eagle," which included B-2 stealth bomber flights and a nuclear attack submarine.

North Korea remains contrary

North Korea made repeated vociferous objections to the annual war games in the South. It characterized the drill as a prelude to an invasion, warning it was poised to conduct a preemptive nuclear strike on the United States and its bases in the Asia-Pacific region.

North Korea also said it was abrogating the 1953 truce that halted the three-year war on the peninsula. In addition, it declared that a "state of war" again existed with South Korea.

Despite the alarming rhetoric, the North has not made any further military provocations. But most military and intelligence analysts in Seoul and elsewhere expect North Korea, at some point, to conduct a fourth nuclear test and test-fire more medium or long-range missiles.

Such actions would further violate sanctions imposed on Pyongyang by the United Nations Security Council.

South Korea's presidential office and defense ministry on Monday both stated there are no indications the North has halted apparent preparations for a medium-range missile launch.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

VOA Exclusive: Interview With Myanmar President Thein Sein

Thein Sein calls allegations that minority Muslim Rohingya are fleeing alleged torture in Rakhine state a media fabrication More

Video Better Protective Suit Sought for Ebola Caregivers

Current suit is uncomfortable, requires too many steps for removal, increasing chance of deadly contact with virus More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
April 29, 2013 1:58 PM
The best way ahead is for all to stop talking about the military aspects/confrontation issues, especially the SKorean gvmt, keep cool but alert; and start talking about reopening the Kaesong industrial complex.


by: ChinaWatcher from: USA
April 29, 2013 1:12 PM
Either the North is on a suicide mission, or it is seeking a real peace. Undoing all the steps previously taken toward normalization may be the DPRK regime's awkward attempt to start genuine negotiations on all subjects, not just the nukes. It would be good for the US and the ROK to explore this possibility rather than assume irrationality. Anyone trained in Marxist/Hegelian dialectics can better understand these outbursts than lawyers steeped in the Anglo-Saxon tradition of black/white, guilty/innocent, good/bad. In the end, we must assume for safety's sake that even "crazy" people often act with some sense of purpose. Let's find out.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid