중앙데일리

8 Kaesong staff ejected by North

개성공단서 인질 발생할 경우 주한미군 활용해 근로자 구출
Hot line and maritime communications cut  PLAY AUDIO

May 27,2010
Ratcheting up tension on the already edgy Korean Peninsula, North Korea yesterday expelled eight South Korean officials from the joint industrial base in Kaesong and cut off a border hot line and maritime communications with South Korea. The moves followed the North’s declaration late Tuesday that it will sever all relations with South Korea and won’t engage in any inter-Korean exchanges during the term of President Lee Myung-bak.

North Korea also threatened yesterday to block South Korean officials and vehicles from entering what it described as an inter-Korean zone on the west coast - an apparent reference to the Kaesong Industrial Complex - if the South resumed propaganda broadcasts at the border.

The officials expelled from Kaesong, who worked at the Consultative Office for South-North Economic Cooperation, returned home around 1:40 p.m. yesterday. The last time North Korea ejected officials from Kaesong was in December 2008, when Pyongyang reduced the number of South Koreans permitted to visit per day.

But South Korea said yesterday it would continue with its retaliations for the sinking of the Navy patrol ship Cheonan in March. The military planned to begin spreading propaganda leaflets yesterday.

The North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland issued a statement late Tuesday to respond to South Korea’s moves. The committee warned that it would sever all communication lines with Seoul, including the Red Cross liaison channel at Panmunjom, expel South Korean officials in Kaesong and prohibit South Korean vessels and planes from traveling through the North’s territorial waters and skies. On Monday, South Korea said its waters would be closed to North Korean ships, effective immediately.

“The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea formally declares that from now on it will put into force the resolute measures to totally freeze the inter-Korean relations, totally abrogate the agreement on nonaggression between the North and the South and completely halt inter-Korean cooperation,” the statement read. “All the issues arising in inter-Korean relations will be handled under a wartime law.

“The DPRK [North Korea] had already solemnly declared that it would regard the South’s anti-DPRK smear campaign over the sinking of the warship as a declaration of a war against the DPRK and mete out a merciless and strong punishment if the group dares defile its dignity,” the statement added.

Seoul maintained the North’s latest threats won’t affect its post-Cheonan moves. Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung accused Pyongyang of “once again undermining inter-Korean relations” by taking threatening measures, even though it actually should have apologized for its attack on the Cheonan.

“We will unwaveringly and firmly deal with these North Korean threats.”

The United States, Seoul’s staunchest supporter, was befuddled by the North Korean move.

“I can’t imagine a step that is less in the long-term interest of the North Korean people than cutting off further ties with South Korea,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in a press briefing. “I think it’s odd. South Korea is one of the most dynamic economies in the world. North Korea is a failing economy, even by their own admission. North Korea is unable to care for its citizens. It’s unable to feed its people.”

This month, inter-Korean ties have sunk to their lowest point since the turn of the decade. After a multinational team of investigators concluded last Thursday that a North Korean torpedo attacked the Cheonan, killing 46 on board, the South said it would no longer tolerate North Korean provocations and alter its defense posture to “proactive deterrence.” North Korea spewed its usual vindictive rhetoric, threatening military action if any sanctions were imposed.

It remains to be seen what North Korea will ultimately do with the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which was built in 2003 as a symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation. In Tuesday’s statement, the North only mentioned a possible expulsion of South Korean officials at the consultative office, but not workers on the site. More than 120 South Korean companies there employ about 42,000 North Koreans.


By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]
Related Korean Article

정부, 미국과 대책 협의 … 북 “확성기 설치 땐 개성공단 차단”



MB 5·24 천안함 선언 이후국방부가 개성공단 내 우리 근로자가 북한의 인질로 잡힐 경우에 대비해 주한미군의 대규모 전력 전개를 통해 해결하는 방안을 검토하고 있는 것으로 파악됐다.

이는 25일 청와대 국민원로회의에 참석한 김태영 국방부 장관의 메모를 통해 드러났다. 김 장관은 메모에서 ‘개성 industrial complex 내 인질사태에 대한 조치방안 강구’라고 적은 뒤 ‘대규모 인질 시 공중○○ 통제’와 ‘미 전력 대규모 전개’를 적시했다.

유사시 남측 근로자 구출을 위해 공군 동원과 주한미군의 대규모 전개가 필요하다는 점을 내비친 것으로 풀이된다. 김 장관의 개인메모는 회의장에 있던 사진취재 기자들에 의해 포착되면서 공개됐다.

김태영 장관은 이에 앞서 24일 국회 천안함 침몰사건 진상조사 특위에서 “(개성공단 인질 사태) 가능성이 많이 있기 때문에 그에 대한 대비를 검토하고 있다”고 밝힌 바 있다. 김 장관은 “군에서 인질대책과 관련해 몇 가지 방법으로 할 것인가 고민을 계속하고 있다”며 “관련 계획을 세우려 미측과 지금 협의 중”이라고 강조했다.

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