Stop abusing industrial facility

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Stop abusing industrial facility

The inter-Korean industrial joint venture in Kaesong is on the verge of a collapse for the first time in nearly a decade. The government proposed bilateral talks with Pyongyang to solve the impasse at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, where operations have been suspended since early this month. It warned of a “grave measure” if Pyongyang did not give an answer by Friday morning. It was the first time Seoul gave such a blunt ultimatum to Pyongyang.

The government has been attempting dialogue on the eating and health conditions of around 170 South Korean employees remaining in the complex. Since Pyongyang closed the gates to the industrial city near the border on April 3, transport of food and necessities has been cut off. The South Korean workforce was reduced to 170 from 700 and they are now surviving on meager stocks left in the deserted complex. They will run out of stocks by the end of the month.

The government emphasized that it must take immediate and strong action to protect its citizens. On April 11, Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae officially requested a dialogue to solve the matter, but North Korean authorities snubbed the gesture as a “trick” and turned down the offer for talks. Business representatives also requested visits to the site but were turned away. The government attempted communication through the managing chief of the industrial zone but was shunned.

Seoul reiterated that it has not changed its position that the Kaesong industrial complex must be sustained and developed in a stable manner. Food and medical supplies are basic needs for residents and therefore should not be subject to bargaining, it said. “It is a sincere proposal for the two Koreas to build a common path to peace and co-prosperity,” the government said in hopes that Pyongyang won’t misunderstand and distort its statement.

North Korea must not victimize South Korean workers in the complex for its political purposes. If Pyongyang does not respond, Seoul will have to pull out all remaining workers from the complex. The workers have stayed there to protect their facilities. North Korea’s barring entry of food, fuel and medical supplies is a violation of human rights. It is unthinkable for a decent state.

North Korea must stop abusing the Kaesong complex, which is the last working business connection between the two Koreas. The joint-venture is vital not only for inter-Korean relations but also for North Korea’s international status and credibility. Pyongyang must immediately reopen the complex.

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