Hope for Kaesong Complex Amid Mixed Messages from N.Korea

      May 31, 2010 09:21

      North Korea seems unlikely to close the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex anytime soon, with the agency supervising the industrial park telling some South Korean businesses there not to worry.

      An official with North Korea's General Bureau for Central Guidance to the Development of the Special Zone also reportedly tried to dissuade South Korean firms from removing equipment and facilities to the South amid escalating cross-border tensions since the sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan.

      The Unification Ministry quoted firms there as saying the bureau sent a signal that appeared to downplay the North Korean military's threats to shut the industrial park. Last week it sent an additional 300 workers to a dozen firms at the complex and told some 43,000 North Korean workers there to stay calm.

      An executive of a South Korean firm said, "The bureau and the Kaesong People's Committee have told us to continue operation because the industrial park won't be closed." But he added, "I don't know whether that's happened after coordination with Pyongyang or whether it's their own assessment."

      A South Korean security official said, "This shows how seriously the North takes the industrial park. The bureau and the committee worry about the livelihood of more than 100,000 people in Kaesong even though the military is trying to use the industrial park as a stick to beat the South with."

      A spokesman for the National Defense Commission, the North's top policy-making body, on Friday did not repeat the threat of imminent closure, saying merely the complex "is a symbol of inter-Korean cooperation and exchange. Prospects for the industrial park depend on how the South will comply with the joint June 15, 2000 North-South declaration and the Oct. 4, 2007 statement."

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