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

    Leaving Scalia Replacement to 2017 Would Mean Unusually Long Vacancy

    History of high court shows Obama not in unique situation during final year of presidency

    US Fact Checkers Debunk Some Republican Presidential Candidate Claims 

    Slim evidence for several claims made by Republican presidential candidates at their last debate ahead of next Saturday's key nominating election in South Carolina

    Uganda Presidential Debate a Small Victory for Democracy

    In homes and bars across country, Ugandans were fixated on their screens as eight political candidates running for president took part in national debate

    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.
    New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Ugandai
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    February 12, 2016 9:29 PM
    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video Refugees in Kenya Vie to Compete in Rio Olympics

    In Kenya, refugees from other African nations are training at a special camp and competing for a limited number of slots in this year's Rio Olympics under the flag of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Ngong, this is a first in Olympic history.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.