Seoul accused of barring retrieval from Kaesong

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Seoul accused of barring retrieval from Kaesong

A group of businessmen who own factories in the joint-Korea Kaesong Industrial Complex expressed outrage that the South Korean government concealed that Pyongyang officials had indicated a possibility for them to retrieve their raw materials and finished goods from the currently defunct factories.

The Association for South Korean Firms in the Kaesong Industrial Complex held an emergency press conference yesterday at the Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business in Yeouido, western Seoul, and stated, “The government has to immediately make transparent the discussions that our Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee had [with the North].”

The businessmen released a statement under the Emergency Committee Demanding Normalization of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which criticized the South Korean government for concealing that North Korea had expressed a willingness to allow workers to visit the complex for standard maintenance and withdraw their assets there, and even suggested a date when this could happen.

North Korean officials sent a fax to the businessmen here on Thursday, the statement said, which detailed that in the discussion on May 3, when all South Koreans were withdrawn from the joint industrial park after resolving a dispute regarding unpaid wages, such an offer was made.

“Belatedly, the Ministry of Unification acknowledged the facts, except the date [when the businessmen could visit Kaesong],” the statement continued. “Why did the government hide this from us?”

The Unification Ministry on Thursday acknowledged that as all South Korean personnel were being withdrawn from the complex, the North said it will allow for company owners to visit the North to maintain the factories and protect their assets.

The ministry spokesman stated that the offer was made to a remaining Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee member who did not have the authority to make such decisions and that if “an official offer was made” through inter-Korean channels, then the South Korean government would have responded accordingly.

After expressing discontent at the government for not making public that the North made such a proposal, the statement further asked that the businessmen be able to participate in the talks to normalize the operation of Kaesong.

“There has to be a measure for the actual stakeholders, the businessmen, to be able to participate themselves in the negotiations on all issues for the normalization of operations in Kaesong, including retrieval of raw materials,” they stated.

They are slated to return to the factories next Thursday to retrieve their goods.

“The government has to take action so that the requested May 23 deadline to retrieve all assets in Kaesong could be met,” the association said.

The association also expressed disappointment at the Minister of Unification Ryoo Kihl-jae, who had declined to meet with them because of a busy schedule, at the press conference.

By Sarah Kim []
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