World

Last S Korean workers to leave Kaesong complex

PTI Paju (South Korea) April 29 | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on April 29, 2013

South Korea was due to pull out its last workers from a joint factory zone in North Korea – a rare symbol of cross-border cooperation now crippled by a tense military stand-off.

The move raises the prospect of the permanent closure of the Kaesong complex, the last point of contact between the two Koreas and a key source of income for Kim Jong-Un’s isolated regime.

South Korean companies with factories at the site have expressed shock at the sudden evacuation, which saw 126 workers return on Saturday in dozens of vehicles loaded with assembled goods and other materials.

The roughly 50 people remaining – mostly government employees who manage the site, as well as telecom and electrical engineers – were initially due to cross back at about 5.00 pm today.

But their return was delayed due to last-minute “discussion on administrative issues”, the South’s Unification Ministry said.

Seoul announced on Friday that it had decided to pull all remaining employees from Kaesong after Pyongyang blocked access to the site and refused to open talks on restarting the stalled operations.

The complex is the victim of escalating tensions triggered by a nuclear test by the North in February, which has been followed by a series of bellicose threats of nuclear war and missile tests by Kim Jong-Un’s regime.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se told a forum in Seoul on Monday that “the window of dialogue is still open” on Kaesong, according to the South’s Yonhap news agency.

“North Korea must understand that its missile and nuclear programmes are just an empty dream,” Yun added.

But some observers believe the shutting down of the complex would be permanent as the factory equipment there would fall into disrepair and the firms would soon lose their customers.

“Some people say that the complex may be reopened in a few weeks or months once the two sides hammer out a deal, but it’s a ludicrous idea,” said Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

“Once the complex dies, the North will naturally deploy its troops back there, returning the military situation to the pre-Kaesong days. All the artillery units targeting Seoul will move closer to the border, which will surely heighten military tension,” he said.

Published on April 29, 2013
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