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Kaesong park firms demand end to political row
SEOUL, March 31 (Yonhap) -- A group representing South Korean companies based in a joint-venture factory park in North Korea on Sunday called for a halt to political arguments over the site.

   The association for South Korean firms in the Kaesong industrial complex said disputes of a political nature are "wasteful" and detrimental to the development of the complex and inter-Korean ties.

   On Saturday, North Korea threatened to close down the inter-Korean industrial base if Seoul continues to slander Pyongyang's character. In a statement, an unidentified spokesman for the park said the South is "insulting the dignity" of the North's leadership by claiming that the communist state is only allowing the complex to remain in operation despite escalating tensions because it is regarded as a source of foreign currency.

   The North countered that it was South Korean small and medium businesses, not North Korea, that benefit from Kaesong.

   "We must protect the Kaesong industrial complex," one official of the association said. "If the complex closes, South Korea will take as severe a blow as North Korea, since 15,000 people will lose their jobs right away."

   Currently, 123 South Korean firms run factories with cheap North Korean labor in Kaesong.

   On Saturday, 157 South Koreans crossed the border to reach the factory complex, while 427 returned home. The South Korean government said there's no shift in its position that the Kaesong site will continue to run in a "stable manner."

   jeeho@yna.co.kr
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