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

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora