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Blue House: Moon didn’t bring up Kaesong

Aug 24,2017
The Blue House on Wednesday said it is not considering reopening the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex, responding to media reports quoting a U.S. lawmaker who said the topic came up during conversation with President Moon Jae-in on Monday.

“I support the efforts of President Moon to reach out with humanitarian efforts and dialogue, and his efforts and vision to open up the Kaesong factory, to provide them some relief,” Democratic Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney of New York, who was visiting the country with a five-member U.S. congressional delegation, told reporters in a joint press conference Tuesday at a hotel in central Seoul.

The industrial park, launched in 2004, was shut down by the Park Geun-hye administration in Feb. 2016, following Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test in January and a subsequent long-range ballistic missile launch, which led to the North cutting off direct communications with the South.

Maloney added, “[Moon] mentioned the Kaesong complex allowed the North Korean people to understand some of the opportunities South Korea has, to work and be paid for their work .?.?. We were talking about humanitarian efforts. I know he was an outstanding civil rights attorney.”

“The U.S. lawmakers raised the [Kaesong] issue first to President Moon,” a Blue House official told reporters Wednesday. “We are clarifying the contents of the closed-door conversations because it may send a wrong message not only domestically but to related countries.”

“We see the spreading of a market economy in North Korea as a very effective way to change the perceptions of North Korean people,” Moon was quoted as saying by a Blue House official, “and thereby get North Korea to change. In the past, the Kaesong complex and tourism to Mount Kumgang played such a role in spreading a market economy in the North, and such efforts, as well as efforts to promote human rights in North Korea, have to be undertaken not only by South Korea but the international community.”

Moon told U.S. congressional leadership at the end of June, during his visit to Washington for a summit with President Donald Trump, that “it wouldn’t be easy” to reopen the Kaesong industrial park given the current situation. He added that such discussions could happen if and when North Korea is willing to seriously discuss scrapping its nuclear program.

During his Berlin address in July, Moon called for exchange and cooperation projects with North Korea, including humanitarian cooperation, to be separated from the political and military situation.

Maloney was part of a bipartisan, bicameral delegation led by Sen. Edward J. Markey, a Democrat of Massachusetts, which traveled to Japan, South Korea and China to denounce a preventive war and promote a peaceful solution amid North Korea’s threats and further development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]