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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 259 (April 25, 2013)
*** INTER-KOREAN RELATIONS

N. Korea Snubs S. Korean Bizmen's Request for Kaesong Visit

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea rejected a request to allow representatives from South Korea's small and medium business federation to visit the Kaesong Industrial Complex early next week, the government said on Arpil 19.

   The Unification Ministry said it received a formal notification from the North denying the South Korean businessmen entry to the border town.

   "The North claimed the South is to blame for the current situation," a ministry official said, without touching on details. He added Seoul forwarded the request for the visit through the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee earlier in the day.

   The group, made up of 10 members from the Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business (Kbiz) and businessmen with factories at Kaesong, had asked the ministry to contact Pyongyang so a trip could be arranged for April 22. Kbiz chairman Kim Ki-mun and Han Jae-kwon, head of the Kaesong Industrial Complex Companies Association, wanted to visit the complex to talk to workers, check facilities that have been idle for over a week and speak to North Korean officials.

   Kaesong is located just north of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas.

   The rejection marks the second request turned down by the North. The first attempt made by entrepreneurs with factories at the Kaesong complex was rejected by Pyongyang on April 17.

   The North, citing South Korean provocations which it claimed tarnished the dignity of the socialist country, banned all South Korean personnel and materials from entering the complex on April 3. This was followed by the pulling out of its 53,000 laborers on April 9 that effectively halted production at the 123 factories.

   Pyongyang, however, has not restricted South Koreans from leaving the complex, which remains the last viable economic link between the two Koreas ever since production commenced in late 2004.

   Reflecting the restrictions imposed by the North, there are now 193 South Koreans at the complex, down from around 850 before the passage restrictions went into effect. A total of four crossed over the DMZ during the day, with four more expected to return home on April 20.

   Earlier in the day, Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk said that Seoul's stance on the Kaesong issue remains resolute and that the North must take formal steps to allow normal operations to take place as soon as possible.

   "If the North cares for the future of the Kaesong complex and inter-Korean relations in general, it needs to take immediate actions to lift restriction and implement positive changes," he said in a press conference.

  
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S. Korea' Parliament Urges Immediate Resumption of Kaesong Complex

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea's parliament adopted a resolution on April 24, calling for the immediate normalization of the suspended joint inter-Korean industrial complex in the North's border town of Kaesong.

   The resolution adopted by the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee also expressed regret over North Korea's entry ban and its withdrawal of North Korean workers employed by South Korean firms operating in the Kaesong Industrial Complex earlier this month.

   "The Kaesong Industrial Complex, a symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation and exchange as well as co-prosperity, should be normalized immediately," the resolution said. "South Korea's National Assembly strongly condemns North Korea's continued actions to fuel tensions and halt operations at the Kaesong Industrial Park and pull out workers there."

   It further called on the two Koreas to resume bilateral and six-way talks, involving powerful neighboring countries, in order to secure peace on the Korean Peninsula.

   The North should allow the special entry of foods and other necessary goods into the suspended industrial park and should allow the South Korean government to come up with assistance measures for the firms suffering from the suspension, it said.

   Operations at the Kaesong park came to a complete halt on April 9 as North Korean workers did not show up for work. A week earlier, the North started to ban South Korean workers' and vehicles' entry into the inter-Korean complex, seen as the last symbol of inter-Korean economic cooperation.

   About 800 South Koreans were staying at the Kaesong zone before the entry ban. Only 176 South Korean workers are now staying there after the majority of them returned to the South due to shortages of food and other materials.

   South Korea offered to hold talks with the North on April 11, but the North rejected the offer three days later.

  (END)
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