[FOUNTAIN]Gaeseong’s strategic importance

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[FOUNTAIN]Gaeseong’s strategic importance

It is no coincidence that North Korea’s ambitious industrial complex is being built in Gaeseong. In order to understand the intention behind the choice of location, we need to go back to the Korean War.
On June 25, 1950, 10 divisions of the North Korean Army crossed the truce line. The main force followed the Cheolwon-Euijeongbu route to the east of Seoul, and Divisions 3 and 4 came via Gaeseong and Munsan from the west.
Only three days later, the two forces stormed into Seoul. The speedy development of the war reminds us of the “shock and awe” early days of the U.S. war against Iraq.
North Korea let the Fourth Division take charge of the Gaeseong-Munsan axis and the Second Division oversee the Euijeongbu-Cheolwon axis. Considering that the other two forward divisions, the First and Fifth, were in charge of three axes, Chuncheon-Hongcheon, Seohwa and the East Coast, the military authorities treated these two routes with special care.
Therefore, the location of the Gaeseong Industrial Complex has a strategic meaning in the way that North Korea’s attack route has been interrupted. When South Korean companies and citizens are working on the front line of Pyeongyang’s war map, the North Korean military cannot pull off a surprise attack.
Until very recently, the military authorities did not welcome the idea of Gaeseong hosting an industrial complex housing South Korean companies, but the project was supported by Kim Jong-il, a government official says. How would the South Korean military react if North Korea wanted to build an industrial complex in Munsan?
In that sense, the Gaeseong Industrial Complex might reflect Pyeongyang’s efforts to build confidence with the South.
Recently, President Roh Moo-hyun ordered a probe into the navy’s firing against a North Korean vessel that violated the border in the Yellow Sea.
He might be concerned that the incident might freeze the fledgling trust building with Pyeongyang. But the president finds himself in a difficult situation to deal with the confidence of both the North and the military.
If he loses his balance and inclines to one side, the cost might be losing the other. At least, the military does not think its response was anything to be criticized.


by Ahn Sung-kyoo

The writer is a political news deputy editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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