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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 263 (May 23, 2013)
*** INTER-KOREAN RELATIONS

Inter-Korean Trade Nosedives amid Suspension of Kaesong Complex

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Trade between South and North Korea tumbled last month after the North shut down the jointly run industrial park in its border town of Kaesong, government data showed on May 21.

   The monthly inter-Korean trade volume came to US$23.43 million in April, down 88 percent from $194.27 million recorded the previous month, according to the data from the Ministry of Unification in charge of inter-Korean affairs.

   The April figure is almost similar to the average monthly trade volume of $23.94 million registered in 1995.

   In early April, the North banned the entry of South Korean workers and materials into the Kaesong Industrial Complex and withdrew all North Korean workers employed by South Korean firms there in protest against Seoul's joint military exercises with the U.S. in March.

   Launched in 2004, the complex is a combination of South Korea's capital and North Korea's cheap labor force. The joint venture had accounted for the majority of inter-Korean trade since then.

   Trade between the two countries, which remain technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, had steadily increased since late in the 1980's to register an annual record of $1 billion in 2005.

   But a series of punitive measures, taken after the North's deadly torpedoing of a South Korean corvette in March 2010, sent inter-Korean transactions tumbling, virtually leaving the Kaesong park as the only channel of trade between the countries.

   Amid the on-going suspension of the joint complex, inter-Korean trade volume is widely expected to reach zero this month.

  
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Seoul to Offer Humanitarian Aid to Pyongyang If Dialogue Reopens

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea will seek to rebuild trust with North Korea by offering humanitarian aid to Pyongyang if inter-Korean dialogue is reopened, a top security official said, despite months of high tensions triggered by the North's nuclear test.

   Ju Chul-ki, the senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs and national security, told senior diplomats on May 22 that Seoul is willing to "present several proposals to North Korea if (inter-Korean) dialogue resumes."

   The remarks by Ju were in line with President Park Geun-hye's "trustpolitik" policy that calls for dialogue and exchange to foster trust with North Korea, while strongly responding to the North's acts of provocation and its defiant pursuit of nuclear weapons.

   Later in the day, Ju made it clear that his government's North Korea policy is aimed at getting rid of the North's nuclear programs.

   "Progress on North Korea's nuclear issue means eliminating the North's nuclear arsenal," Ju told Yonhap News Agency.

   Although the security situation on the Korean Peninsula has shown no signs of easing, Ju said he was hopeful of reopening inter-Korean talks.

   North Korea has fired a total of six short-range projectiles into the East Sea since May 18. Still, it remains unclear whether they were short-range guided missiles or large-caliber rockets that were shot from multiple launchers.

   Although the North said the tests of "rockets" were part of routine military drills, South Korea and the U.S. have been perplexed over the North's motives.

   Tests of short-range missiles or projectiles by North Korea are not uncommon, but the North's latest tests dashed hopes of softening months of high tensions, which forced an inter-Korean industrial complex in the North's border city of Kaesong to face permanent closure.

  
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Park Urges N. Korea to Halt Provocations, Expect No Gains from Bad Behavior

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye urged North Korea on May 22 to immediately halt provocations and work with South Korea for peace on their divided peninsula, saying Pyongyang should never expect to gain concessions with bad behavior.

   "North Korea is continuing threats of provocations while rejecting our proposals for dialogue and launching guided missiles," Park said, dressed in a khaki helicopter jacket, during a ceremony marking the deployment of South Korea's first indigenously developed military helicopter "Surion."

   "We have to maintain a watertight defense posture and strengthen security capabilities. I once again strongly urge North Korea to change," she said. The ceremony was held at Army Aviation School in the central city of Nonsan.

   Park said she and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed at a summit earlier May that the two countries will deal resolutely with North Korean provocations while at the same time leaving the door open for dialogue.

   "South Korea and the U.S. won't provide any concession or aid in response to North Korea-created crises," she said, adding that her government is ready to push strongly for engagement with the socialist nation if it chooses the path for change.

   "I hope North Korea immediately halts threats and provocations and move forward with us for peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula," she said.

   The development of Surion, a two-engine light utility helicopter, made South Korea the world's 11th nation to build a homegrown chopper. South Korea plans to deploy 200 Surions by 2020 to replace its aging fleet of choppers.

  (END)
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