If North Korea Sanctions ease, Kaesong revival will be first issue reviewed

Richard Kim , Aug. 25, 2017, 10:29 a.m.


South Korea's point man on North Korea said Friday that the now-suspended joint industrial town in Kaesong will be the first issue to be reviewed if Pyongyang halts provocations and international sanctions are eased. Speaking at a forum here, Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon reaffirmed the Moon Jae-in administration's resolve to maintain economic sanctions to punish the impoverished communist neighbor for its repeated nuclear and missile tests.

Asked about the possibility of reopening the joint industrial complex in Kaesong, a North Korean border city, he said, "Realistically, it's difficult in the current situations." But the government plans to put a priority on resolving the issue if there's a change in the "sanctions phase" some day, he added.

The minister stressed that there's no better way he thinks to bring a change to the isolated communist nation. He said the resumption of the inter-Korean program may proceed gradually starting from the on-site management of related facilities and assets that remain in the zone. Early last year, the South shut down the industrial facilities for the North's nuclear and missile tests, citing the need to prevent the Kim Jong-un regime from earning hard currency for its military programs.

The Kaesong project, initiated in the early 2000s, was once a core element in the South's efforts to reconcile with the North. Until the closure, 124 South Korean firms hired around 54,000 North Korean workers to produce socks, wristwatches and other goods there. On the North's missile capability, meanwhile, Cho predicted that it will take around two more years for the North to perfect its intercontinental ballistic missile technology.

"It may be shorter than we expect as it's pushing for that faster than our judgment," he said. "Now is viewed as a stage (for the North) to escalate tensions, and there's a possibility of additional provocations." He said the North's nuclear and missile programs started as a leverage for negotiations but added it's fair to say that the North may try to use them for military purposes.

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