KEDO told to leave North Korea
Pyongyang has told the KEDO Office in Kumho, North Korea, to withdraw all its workers at the nuclear power reactor construction site in the North by early January.
The office is a branch of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, a group overseeing work on two nuclear reactors there.
South Korean and KEDO officials told the JoongAng Daily that the North had also said KEDO would not be allowed to repatriate equipment and materials at the construction site on North Korea’s east coast.
The 1994 Agreed Framework, signed by North Korea and the United States, promised the reactors in compensation for Pyongyang’s freeze of its nuclear activities. Construction at the site began in 1997, but was suspended in 2003 after the North resumed clandestine attempts to develop weapons. A caretaker force of about 110 people works at the site.
The KEDO officials said the North Korean liaison office at the site informed them on Dec. 7 that the workers had 30 days to leave.
After construction work at the site was suspended, the North blocked KEDO from removing about $20 million worth of cars, trucks, cranes and other construction equipment, much of it owned by South Korean contractors. In addition, KEDO has built several dozen apartment buildings for workers, a gymnasium and other recreation facilities, the area’s only paved roads and complete water and electrical power systems.
In total, KEDO has spent about $1.5 billion on the project, including $1.1 billion provided by Seoul. The United States, Japan and the European Union are the other members.
A Unification Ministry official confirmed the North Korean demand. “We are talking with the North Koreans about how to withdraw,” he said, complaining that the equipment the North wants left behind was a KEDO asset.
KEDO’s executive board agreed last month to end the project, but is still wrestling with how to wind up financial and legal matters.
by Ser Myo-ja