Kaesong is in good shape, says inspection team

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Kaesong is in good shape, says inspection team

Following the agreement last week to restart the Kaesong Industrial Complex after a four-month closure, South Korean officials crossed the border into North Korea Saturday to check the condition of the facilities.

A 30-person delegation from the South included officials from the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee, KT, Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) and Korea Water Resources Corporation. They headed to Kaesong Saturday morning from the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine office in Paju, Gyeonggi, in 10 vehicles.

They confirmed that electricity, water and telecommunications systems were running despite the extreme heat and humidity this summer following the shutdown in April after North Korea pulled its workers out.

“Although the electric facilities need a little maintenance, there are no big issues,” Cho Gi-hyeong, a Kepco official who was a part of the inspection committee, said.

Kepco inspectors inspected the 154-kilovolt transmission line that sends electricity from a substation in Munsan, Gyeonggi, to Pyeonghwa substation in Kaesong. The power supply to Kaesong was cut to one tenth its usual 3,000 kilowatts a day following the shutdown of the complex.

Likewise, KT officials, inspected the telecommunications network while Korea Water Resources checked the water treatment facility, which continued to operate to provide water to residents of Kaesong.

“There seems to be no big problem in resuming operation,” said one official from the inspection committee, adding that the North appeared to have maintained the water facility “to a certain extent.”

Today, a second delegation from the South including environmental experts will visit for further inspection. “Each company’s situation is different but for over four months the complex has been neglected, so it is expected that will take a considerable amount of time,” said Yoo Chang-geun, spokesman of the Emergency Measures Committee for Normalizing the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which represents the 123 companies operating there.

He added that after the North Korean workers return, reviving customer demand is a big challenge for the companies working in Kaesong. Many of their former buyers have turned to China and other sources, so some companies will have to find entirely new customers. “Securing work is our biggest task,” he said.

The ruling Saenuri Party yesterday proposed a bill to give support to the businessmen at Kaesong, including financial aid in case they face a similar situation in the future. The Kaesong business owners claim they suffered more than 1.5 trillion won ($1.34 billion) in losses.

“From now on, the Kaesong complex has to be managed in a stable and continuous manner that will not be swayed by political situation,” said Saenuri Party Representative Won Yoo-Chul, who wrote the bill.

BY YUM TAE-JUNG, SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]
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