South Korea to stop operations at joint factory park with DPRK over rocket, nuke test

SEOUL: South Korea on Wednesday announced a plan to completely stop operations at a jointly run factory park with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) over Pyongyang’s recent nuclear test and long-range rocket launch.

The decision ended the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean economic cooperation, which Seoul saw as a key source of cash to advance Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile technology.
Unification Minister Hong Yong-Pyo told a televised press briefing that the DPRK conducted extremist provocations, including the fourth nuclear test and long-range missile launch, in defiance of repeated warnings from the international community.

The DPRK launched a rocket on Sunday to deliver an observation satellite into orbit after testing what it claimed was its first H-bomb on Jan. 6. Pyongyang is banned under UN Security Council resolutions from testing any ballistic missile technology and conducting a nuclear test.

Calling recent provocations as an intolerable act and a challenge to peace and stability to the Korean peninsula and the world, Hong said Pyongyang has never shown intention to give up its nuclear and missile programs as seen in the DPRK’s recent declaration to continue nuclear and missile tests.

No change of this situation would advance the DPRK’s nuclear capability and result in devastating disasters, Hong said, expressing worry that the DPRK’ nuclear development may lead to a “nuclear domino” in the region.

Operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex were halted again in about two and a half years after the DPRK’s withdrawal of its workers led to the suspension for over five months between April 8 and Sept. 15 in 2013.

The inter-Korean factory park, the result of a historic inter-Korean summit in 2000 between late South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and late DPRK leader Kim Jong-Il, rolled out its first product manufactured there in December 2004.

At the industrial zone, the last remaining symbol of cooperation between the two Koreas, some 120 South Korean companies were running factories, employing over 53,000 DPRK workers.

Hong said that Seoul’s support and efforts to develop the Kaesong factory park into an industrial zone in accordance with international standards had been misused as a key source to advance the DPRK’s missile and nuclear technology.

According to Hong, a total of 616 billion won (560 million U.S.  dollars) flowed into the DPRK through the Kaesong factory park operations, including 132 billion won worth of funds flow into the DPRK in 2015 alone.

In addition, 1.02 trillion won of capital has been invested by both the government and private sector into the factory park, Hong said.

Hong said the ministry had informed Pyongyang of Seoul’s decision, vowing to draw up support measures for South Korean companies having operated factories there.

Seoul’s foreign ministry said that it had informed neighboring countries, including China, the United States, Japan and Russia, of the suspension in advance to explain backgrounds of its decision. 

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