N.Korea Pulls Workers Out of Kaesong Complex

      April 09, 2013 09:16

      Pyongyang on Monday halted operations at the joint-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex by withdrawing all North Korean workers.

      On a visit to the industrial park, Kim Yang-gon of the Workers Party's United Front Department, said in a statement, "We are temporarily suspending the operation of the Kaesong Industrial Complex and reviewing whether to maintain it or not. How the situation develops is totally dependent on the attitude of the South Korean authorities."

      Some 54,000 North Korean laborers work for 123 South Korean firms in the industrial park.

      The complex now faces the first real danger of being shut down since it was launched based on an inter-Korean agreement in 2004. It kept operating even after the North sank the Navy corvette Cheonan in March and 2010 and shelled Yeonpyeong Island in November that year.

      "Despite our repeated warnings, the South Korean confrontationists keep hurling unbearable verbal abuse at us, insulting our dignity by talking about a 'cash cow,' and 'detention' and 'hostage taking' [of South Korean workers there], Kim complained. South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin "revealed his true intentions of sending special U.S. forces into the Kaesong complex while talking about a possible rescue operation for hostages."

      The Unification Ministry said there is "no justification" for the move and added North Korea is solely responsible for any consequences.

      South Korean trucks wait at a gate in Paju, Gyeonggi Province after being barred from entering the Kaesong Industrial Complex on Monday. /News 1

      Some 475 South Korean staffers remain at the industrial park and all of them are safe, the government here said. An official said, "We're prepared for a contingency but have no plan right now to withdraw all staff from the industrial park."

      That the decision was announced by Kim Yang-gon (71), a powerful figure in the regime's old guard, was apparently meant to lend weight to the move. Earlier statements on March 30 and last Wednesday threatening closure had come from the agency in charge of supervising the industrial park.

      "The regime used to insist that former leader Kim Jong-il took a brave step to approve the launch of the Kaesong industrial park despite strong opposition from the military elite," a government official in Seoul said. "It seems to have concluded that Kim Yang-gon, who is in charge of South Korean affairs, should make an announcement of this importance."

      Kim Yang-gon, a leading expert on Chinese affairs, has served in various key positions in charge of carrying out clandestine anti-South Korean operations and psychological warfare as well as promoting inter-Korean dialogue.

      Kim met with former President Lee Myung-bak at Cheong Wa Dae in August 2009, when he visited Seoul for the funeral of former President Kim Dae-jung.

      In October the same year, he had secret discussions with then labor minister Yim Tae-hee in Singapore about a possible inter-Korean summit.

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