The work of the Kaesong joint industrial complex in North Korea was completely stopped on Tuesday, a spokesman for the Corporate Association of Kaesong Industrial Complex (CAKIC) of South Korean businesses operating in the zone, said. On Tuesday, the North Korean employees of the zone did not come to work.
Thus, Pyongyang carried out the decision announced on Monday to withdraw its staff in protest against provocations by Seoul, it was stated.
The Kaesong complex is located north of the demilitarised zone that divides the Korean Peninsula into two states. It was launched in 2004 and to this day has been the only effective joint economic project of the North and the South. A total of 123 South Korean production facilities operated in its territory with more than 850 South Korean citizens working there and about 54 thousand local North Korean citizens. The complex produced each month textile products, utensils and other consumer goods worth about 40 million US dollars. Workers from North Korea annually received about 87 million US dollars in wages.
The Kaesong complex had earlier not stopped operation even in the moments of sharp aggravation of tensions between the North and South – particularly after the North Korean artillery shelling of a South Korean border island in 2010. However, in late March Pyongyang threatened to close the industrial zone, if Seoul “continues its hostile propaganda and again hurts the dignity” of Pyongyang. On March 1, the US-South Korean military exercise codenamed Key Resolve with the participation of the B-2 and B-52 strategic bombers, capable of carrying nuclear weapons was conducted in the territory of the Republic of Korea. The joint exercises Foal Eagle are currently held also there and they will end in late April.
On Monday, Secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Kim Yang Gon, who visited various facilities of the industrial zone, stated that due to the provocative policy pursued by the conservative South Korean authorities that “by their statements hurt the dignity of the DPRK leadership, the fate of the joint industrial complex in Kaesong is at stake,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported. According to him, the enterprises located there “can no longer function normally against the background of the reckless actions of South Korea.” Judging by the statements of Kim Yang Gon, Pyongyang is particularly irritated by the Seoul authorities’ recent declaration about the readiness to attract the US special forces “for the release of South Korean hostages,” allegedly seized in this zone. He held a meeting with the North Korean administration of the complex, ordered to strengthen its security guarding and raise vigilance “in order to respond quickly to any situation.”
Last week, Pyongyang told Seoul to withdraw its personnel from the Kaesong complex. North Korea also refused to admit there South Koreans who arrived in shifts daily to work there. During the normal functioning of enterprises in the Kaesong complex more than 800 citizens of the Republic of Korea were engaged there. Now less than 480 South Koreans stay there. Many of them do not want to leave their factories because they are afraid of losing their equipment and other property located in the complex.