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Pyongyang announces Kaesong reopened

Unilateral move comes almost two years after it was shut down
Oct 09,2017
Pyongyang announced it has unilaterally restarted operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a joint venture with the South in North Korea’s border town of Kaesong that was shut down in February 2016 after the regime’s fourth nuclear test and a subsequent satellite launch.

The announcement last Friday came less than a week after Radio Free Asia cited two sources in China involved in trade with the North, while reporting that Pyongyang was secretly running 19 South Korean-owned clothing factories in the industrial park without informing Seoul. One source was quoted as saying it has been “definitely more than six months” since the factories began running again.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean relations, warned Pyongyang not to violate its property rights but has neither confirmed nor denied the report. A senior ministry official said Sunday that the local government was “thoroughly looking into matters.”

The Kaesong complex, which opened in late 2004 over the western inter-Korean border, was the last significant vestige of South-North business cooperation before Seoul announced on Feb. 10, 2016, that it would suspend operations because profits helped finance North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. One day later, the North announced it would freeze all South Korean assets at the zone, sever all communication channels across the border, shut down the only highway that linked the two Koreas and place the Kaesong park under its military control. Some 45,000 North Korean workers were known to have been employed by 123 South Korean-owned factories there, a combination of the South’s manufacturing technology and the North’s cheap labor.

Uriminzokkiri, a North Korean propaganda website, urged the world last Friday not to interfere in its domestic affairs, saying it held absolute sovereignty over the Kaesong Industrial Complex and therefore “no one else has the right to tell us what to do.”

The outlet added, “No matter how much the United States and its subordinates bark at us with tougher sanctions, they will never impede our mighty step forward, and the factories will only run with much more vigor.”

It added anyone with normal eyesight could “see for sure how proudly our laborers work” at the complex.

Radio Free Asia also reported that most textiles North Korea was producing at the factories were orders made from China. Electricity at Kaesong, the source continued, was diverted from the North’s munitions sector.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]