North’s Kaesong demands imply policy U-turnNorth Korea has barred South Korean companies from removing machinery and equipment from the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex in an apparent move to keep the project alive, a Unification Ministry official said yesterday.
An official of the North’s Central Special Zone Development Guidance General Bureau informed a South Korean official of the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee on Sunday of Pyongyang’s position, the ministry said. The bureau is in charge of managing the industrial complex near the inter-Korean border.
“We will continue efforts to develop the Kaesong Industrial Complex,” the North Korean official was quoted as saying by the ministry. “In principle, we will not allow machinery and equipment that are registered as corporate properties outside the complex.”
The joint industrial complex, a product of the inter-Korean summit held in 2000, is the last remaining point of economic cooperation between the two Koreas. About 110 South Korean companies employ 42,000 North Korean workers at factories in Kaesong, but the project was at the brink of a shutdown after Seoul decided to minimize the number of South Koreans staying there amid escalated tensions on the peninsula in the aftermath of the Cheonan’s sinking.
According to the Unification Ministry, the North Korean official complained about Seoul’s recent measures. Calling the moves preparations to shut down the complex, the North Korean official said the South will be held accountable if that happens.
The North also demanded that South Korean firms pay all overdue payments including wages, before taking any machinery out of the factories, the ministry said.
Machinery that requires repairs in the South will be allowed to leave the complex as long as the North confirms their malfunctions, and on the condition that they be returned to the factories after being fixed, the North demanded, according to the ministry.
No North Korean workers should be put on leave because South Korean companies pull machinery and raw materials from Kaesong, the North also said.
The detailed demands hint at the communist regime’s intention to keep the project alive. It also clearly contradicts North Korea’s May 27 warning that it would consider banning all South Koreans and their vehicles from entering the complex.
Passage of South Koreans at the inter-Korean border remained unchanged as of yesterday. About 813 people were to enter Kaesong Industrial Complex and 600 were to return.
Meanwhile, the Unification Ministry also said yesterday that the North will make public its position on the Cheonan fallout at an extraordinary meeting of the Supreme People’s Assembly next week.
The Supreme People’s Assembly is the North’s unicameral parliament, and the country announced a plan to hold an session next Monday, only two months after its last meeting. This is the first time that a second meeting has been called within one calendar year since Kim Jong-il came to power.
In its weekly report, the Unification Ministry speculated that an announcement will likely come from the meeting about pending issues including the South’s formal accusation that the North torpedoed the warship Cheonan in March.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s recent trip to China and issues related to his successor may also come up at the Supreme People’s Assembly, the ministry said.
By Ser Myo-ja [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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