Kaesong back from the brink

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Kaesong back from the brink

The government announced today that it would start paying the companies in the Kaesong Industrial Complex the insurance set aside for inter-Korean economic cooperation projects that go wrong. If those payments are made, the government would take control of the assets, the factories in Kaesong, which means the insurance payments are a step in the direction of shutting down the complex. The government also clearly said that it will not wait indefinitely for the North to come back to the negotiating table. The government warned of a “grave measure” when it proposed a final round of working-level talks on July 28. That threat always implied a shutting down of the complex would begin. We deplore the fact that the complex has come to this point only 10 years after its inception.

Luckily, just hours after the government started talking about insurance payments, North Korea agreed to a seventh round of negotiations on restarting the joint factory park and proposed Aug. 14 for the talks. Very quickly, South Korea agreed.

North Korea must bear the largest portion of blame for the current situation, as it has used the complex as a means to put political pressure on the South. Since the days of the Lee Myung-bak government, Pyongyang has abused the complex whenever inter-Korean relations soured. The North finally withdrew all of their workers from the complex in April. Seoul responded with a demand for a guarantee of no further attempts by the North to interrupt operations when tensions rose between the two countries.

Since then, a war of nerves between the South and the North has continued, from the total withdrawal of South Korean workers from the complex, to the botched inter-Korean ministerial meeting and the breakdown of working-level talks after six rounds. Seoul has stuck to the stance that it will not allow the complex to open without a clear promise from Pyongyang that it will never again unilaterally interrupt the complex.

We urge the North to make a bold decision. Without predictability and stability it is hardly possible to run a company in the complex. It is unthinkable to expect the South to reopen the project without the North providing such a basic condition. The North should promise as soon as possible that it won’t threaten the normal running of the complex again.

We must be fully prepared to reopen the complex whenever the time and situation allows. We should not start the trust-building process between the two Koreas by permanently closing down the complex.

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