South Korean workers shut down shared industrial park

PAJU, Korea, Republic Of - South Korean workers on Thursday began shutting down a jointly run industrial park in North Korea, a move that will end, at least temporarily, the Koreas' last major co-operation project as punishment over Pyongyang's recent rocket launch.

See Full Article

It was unclear how long the shutdown at the industrial complex in the border city of Kaesong would last, or even how long it would take South Korean companies to close down. Pyongyang has yet to comment, but Seoul said that North Korean workers did not report to work at Kaesong on Thursday.

Along the South Korean side of the border, a stream of large white trucks lined up Thursday morning before crossing into North Korea, presumably to bring back products and gear from the factories. Soldiers stood guard near customs offices and military vehicles escorted cars and vans to the South Korean side.

The shutdown is one of Seoul's strongest available punitive measures, but it is unclear how seriously the impoverished North would be hurt. Seoul said it wants to stop Pyongyang from using hard currency from the park to develop its nuclear and missile programs.

The closing is meant to punish North Korea for its Sunday launch of a rocket that the world sees as a banned test of ballistic missile technology.

Yoon Sang-eun, 62, a South Korean driver for a firm at the factory park, said that if Kaesong "stops operating, companies like us almost have to close off business. It is difficult."

The South's Unification Ministry, which is responsible for ties with the North, said about 130 South Koreans planned to enter Kaesong on Thursday to begin shutdown work, and that nearly 70 South Koreans who had been staying there would be leaving.

North Korea, in a fit of anger over U.S.-South Korean military drills, pulled its workers from Kaesong for about five months in 2013. But, generally, the complex has long been seen as above the constant squabbling and occasional bloodshed between the rival Koreas, one of the last few bright spots in a relationship more often marked by threats of war.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has now done something her conservative predecessor resisted, even after two attacks blamed on North Korea killed 50 South Koreans in 2010.

The question among some is, Why now?

While Park has yet to explain her reasoning on timing, she has previously shown a willingness to take quick action when provoked by the North. When the North conducted its fourth nuclear test last month, for instance, she resumed anti-Pyongyang propaganda from loudspeakers along the border, despite what Seoul says was an exchange of cross-border artillery fire the last time she used the speakers.

The factory park, which started producing goods in 2004, has provided 616 billion won ($560 million) of cash to North Korea, South Korean Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo told a news conference.

"It appears that such funds have not been used to pave the way to peace as the international community had hoped, but rather to upgrade its nuclear weapons and long-range missiles," he said at the televised briefing.

The Unification Ministry said in a statement that the government had "decided to completely shut down" the park. It notified North Korean authorities of the decision and asked them to help ensure the safe return of South Korean citizens from Kaesong.

Combining South Korean initiative, capital and technology with the North's cheap labour, the industrial park has been seen as a test case for reunification between the Koreas. Last year, 124 South Korean companies hired 54,000 North Korean workers to produce socks, wristwatches and other goods worth about $500 million.

The United States supported the move by its close ally, and said it was considering its own, unspecified "unilateral measures" to punish Pyongyang for its recent nuclear test and rocket launch, even as the U.N. Security Council deliberates imposing more multilateral sanctions.

South Korea's government will provide financial compensation to companies that operate at the park, the Finance Ministry said.

South Korean businesses with factories at the park reacted with a mixture of disappointment and anger. In a statement, the association of South Korean companies in Kaesong denounced the government's decision as "entirely incomprehensible and unjust."

Kim Ki-hang, 53, a senior manager with a South Korean company operating at Kaesong, says the government didn't give the companies enough time. "How do we take and ship the products out without enough time?" he asked.

The park also allowed people from both Koreas to interact with each other and glimpse into lives on the other side of the border. Some South Korean snacks have become popular among North Korean workers.

South Korea's government and companies invested more than 1 trillion won ($852 million) to pave roads and erect buildings in the park zone, which lies in a guarded, gated complex on the outskirts of Kaesong, North Korea's third-largest city.

-----

AP writers Youkyung Lee and Foster Klug contributed to this report from Seoul



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Muhammad Ali Jr. detained at Florida airport, asked, 'Are you Muslim?'

    World News CBC News
    The son of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali was detained by immigration officials at an airport in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., according to a lawyer and family friend. Chris Mancini tells the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., that the 44-year-old and his mother Khalilah Camacho-Ali, the second wife of Muhammad Ali, arrived at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Feb. Source
  • Broadway night out: Barack and Malia Obama check out The Price

    World News CBC News
    The Obamas just can't quit Broadway. Former U.S. president Barack Obama and his daughter Malia Obama have caught a new revival of Arthur Miller's The Price. They attended the play starring Danny DeVito, Mark Ruffalo, Jessica Hecht and Tony Shalhoub at the American Airlines Theatre on Friday. Source
  • Ice from plane tears through roof of Calgary home

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Falling ice tore through the roof of a Calgary home Friday night after falling from an aircraft, police reported. Calgary Police officer Andy Nguyen said emergency crews were called to a home in the 100 block of Doverthorn Bay S.E. Source
  • Iraqi forces facing stiff resistance in western Mosul

    World News CTV News
    SOUTH OF MOSUL, Iraq -- Iraqi forces pushed deeper into western Mosul Saturday amid stiff resistance from entrenched Islamic State fighters, a commander on the scene said. Special forces Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi said that his troops are "moving very slowly" and that IS fighters are responding with car bombs, snipers and dozens of armed drones. Source
  • Attack on Syrian security forces in Homs kills dozens, prompts airstrikes

    World News CBC News
    Suicide bombers stormed two Syrian security offices in Homs on Saturday, killing dozens with gunfire and explosions including a senior officer and prompting airstrikes against the last rebel-held enclave in the western city. The jihadist rebel alliance Tahrir al-Sham said in a social media post that five suicide bombers had carried out the attack, which it celebrated with the words "thanks be to God," but stopped short of explicitly claiming responsibility. Source
  • TSB investigating Toronto incident involving Air Canada plane

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- The Transportation Safety Board is investigating an incident involving an Air Canada flight from Halifax that landed at Toronto Pearson International Airport on Friday night. A safety board spokeswoman says Flight 623 was carrying 118 people and so far no injuries have been reported. Source
  • Air Canada plane from Halifax slides from Toronto runway in heavy fog

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- The Transportation Safety Board is investigating an incident involving an Air Canada flight from Halifax that landed at Toronto Pearson International Airport on Friday night. A safety board spokeswoman says Flight 623 was carrying 118 people and so far no injuries have been reported. Source
  • No winning ticket for Friday night's $10M Lotto Max draw

    Canada News CTV News
    If you’re feeling lucky you might want to pick up a Lotto Max ticket, because this Friday’s jackpot is going to be a record breaker. Source
  • Zimbabwe's Mugabe marks 93rd birthday in opposition area

    World News CTV News
    MATOPO HILLS, Zimbabwe -- Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe celebrated his 93rd birthday Saturday amid granite hills where ancient spirits are said to dwell, defying calls to resign after nearly four decades in power in a region known for opposing the man who says he'll run again in 2018 elections. Source
  • 'Luckiest 2 guys in the Arctic' rescued by military plane training for search and rescue

    Canada News CBC News
    A Royal Canadian Air Force Twin Otter crew out for some search and rescue training accidentally found, and rescued, two Nunavut hunters needing help this week. Thom Doelman, a captain with the Royal Canadian Air Force out of Yellowknife, said the crew was flying near Hall Beach as part of Operation Nunalivut, a sovereignty operation conducted annually in Canada's North. Source