No lights on and nobody home at Kaesong

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No lights on and nobody home at Kaesong

KAESONG - They could almost see the tumbleweeds. South Korean reporters yesterday visited the eight-year-old Kaesong Industrial Complex, the last remaining symbol of cross-border business between the two Koreas.

What they found was little more than a ghost town due to the entry ban on all workers and cargo coming from South Korea.

Together as the Joint Press Corps, three South Korean reporters and 14 other media personnel, including camera crew, visited here along with the 23 government officials, including the three negotiators, who attended the talks with the North to discuss bringing back online the complex that has been halted for more than two months.

The press corps sent reports to other South Korean reporters in Seoul via fax every hour. Internet access wasn’t available in Kaesong.

According to their reports, they crossed the military demarcation line at 8:40 a.m. and arrived at the North Korean immigration office at 8:47, where they were greeted by six or seven North Korean officials. North Korean reporters were also there to write about the visit.

At the immigration office, they found two clocks reading the wrong time, which they assumed was due to inconsistent power supply. Prior to the shutdown, South Korea supplied the complex with electricity, also reportedly used in nearby regions.

The reporters arrived at the factory park at 9:00 a.m. and found all traffic lights, as well as convenience stores, gas stations and buildings used by South Korean firms, without power.

There were very few people in the complex and on the streets, and weeds had grown up to 20 centimeters (8 inches) around the stores. Several North Korean laborers were working to clean up the area.

The venue for the talks was the comprehensive support center, the offices for the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee, an inter-Korean organization in charge of communications between South Korean businessmen and the authorities of North and South Korea.

North Korean officials were there to greet the group from the South. The officials included Pak Chol-su, the North’s chief negotiator, who arrived at the center in a Volkswagen luxury sedan.

A bulletin board on the first floor notified that there would be no medical staff on duty at the hospital within the complex starting April 6, three days after the start of the shutdown.

The group also entered a restaurant on the second floor of the building, where they opened a refrigerator to find no food except for a bottle of mayonnaise and some other condiments. In the corner of the restaurant, there were piles of empty bottles and boxes.


BY KIM HEE-JIN, Joint Press Corps [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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