South Korea to Continue Operations at Kaesong Industrial Complex

David Lee, Jan. 12, 2016, 8:48 a.m.

South Korea said Tuesday it is not considering temporarily shutting down a joint industrial park in North Korea at this stage despite the North’s claimed successful test of a hydrogen bomb last week. The government has decided to limit the entry of South Korean nationals into Kaesong Industrial Complex in the North’s border city of the same name in a bid to ensure the safety of its people there following the North’s fourth nuclear test since 2006.

“At this stage, it is too early to talk about a possible closure of the factory zone,” said an official at the Unification Ministry. “We are not considering shutting down the complex for now.” A total of 124 South Korean firms are running factories with about 54,000 North Koreans working at the complex, which opened in 2004 as a symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation.’ Seoul has decided to only allow South Korean businessmen directly involved in the operation of the factories to enter the park. Contractors will only be allowed into the park if they enter and leave it on the same day, it said.

The official did not rule out further restrictive measures, saying that whether or not the government would do so will hinge on how the situation unravels. South Korea took a similar step in August when inter-Korean tension heightened following the North’s firing of shells at a South Korean front-line military unit. The restriction was lifted after the two sides reached a deal on Aug. 25 to defuse military tension. The ministry said Monday that Seoul has decided to apply an entry limit as the North is expected to react to Seoul’s resumption of anti-North Korean loudspeaker broadcasts.

North Korea has kicked off its own propaganda broadcasts, including criticism against President Park Geun-hye, along the heavily fortified border to counter South Korea’s loudspeaker campaign, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday. The operation of the complex has been affected by the ups and downs of inter-Korean ties. In April 2013, the North unilaterally shut down the park for about four months, saying that joint South Korean-U.S. military drills threatened its security. In August of that year, the two Koreas agreed to reopen the complex after Pyongyang promised not to shut it down again “under any circumstances.”

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