Unification Ministry Yields to Ruling-Party Demands Over Kaesong

      October 12, 2011 13:03

      The Unification Ministry will allow companies in the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex to resume construction, which was halted as part of sanctions on North Korea on May 24 last year in response to the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan, the ministry said Tuesday.

      It will also build a fire station and hospital at the complex, repair a highway linking the city of Kaesong with the industrial complex, and add 45 buses to shuttle North Korean workers to and from the facility.

      The measures come after Grand National Party leader Hong Joon-pyo visited the industrial park late last month and said he would look for ways to make the sanctions "more flexible" and boost the number of South Korean businesses operating there.

      Most of the measures announced by the ministry involve fresh investment in the industrial park and violate the sanctions. A ministry official said, "We are implementing these steps in order to ease the difficulties faced by companies in the Kaesong Industrial Complex."

      But critics are unconvinced. "I don't know why these measures weren't implemented sooner if the government really cares about us," said a staffer with a company based in the complex.

      Hong called the Unification Ministry "impudent" when it told him in response to his proposal to host another reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War that it had no intention of doing so. It is widely believed that Unification Ministry Hyun In-taek was sacked in a Cabinet reshuffle in late August because Hong demanded it.

      Now the Unification Ministry seems to be following Hong's demand for "more flexible" policies toward North Korea, but critics say that undermines the whole principle of the Lee Myung-bak administration's quid-pro-quo approach to the North.

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