Final decision neededThree months since the Kaesong Industrial Complex was provisionally closed down, 46 out of the 123 South Korean companies - mostly mechanical and electronic businesses sensitive to humidity during monsoon season - decided to completely withdraw from the joint inter-Korean venture yesterday. After the decision, a special committee for the normalization of business at the industrial park launched a campaign to urge the government to get it back on track through a peaceful march from Imjingak to Busan from today. Despite the desperation of the companies, however, both the South and North Korean governments are sitting on their hands doing nothing to fix the problem and restore the businesses.
South Korean companies wanted their government to decide as soon as possible whether to shut down the industrial park to properly deal with contracts they have with their suppliers and customers. In fact, it doesn’t make sense at all to prolong a temporary suspension of the operations for too long as no companies can easily sustain three months of suspension. The government should make a clear decision on the future of the complex as soon as possible.
The companies already had a press conference to hint at the possibility of a drastic decision two weeks ago. They pleaded to the authorities to allow a small number of their staff visit the complex to take care of the facilities they had left behind. Regrettably, however, their requests were overshadowed by the news of President Park Geun-hye’s first state visit to China last month and the conflicts among lawmakers over the controversial dialogue between President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il at their summit in Pyongyang in 2007.
Their plea was totally dismissed by the governments in the South and North, which were having a boring tug of war over the level of chief negotiators representing each country at talks that never came about. Our government appears to take comfort in the fact that it at least promised financial compensation to the companies. The government must listen to their voices. Its hard-line stance stemming from the North’s “lack of appropriate measures” can hardly be justified. The unnecessary war of nerves between Seoul and Pyongyang over the park translates into a dereliction of duty.
If the government finds it impossible to resume the Kaesong operations by making some compromise with the North, it must quickly decide to shut it permanently. That’s the only way to address the financial pains of our companies.