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(Yonhap Editorial) Entry ban on Kaesong complex should be lifted immediately
SEOUL, April 8 (Yonhap) -- The number of South Korean companies halting operations in the inter-Korean industrial complex in the North Korean border town of Kaesong is on the rise as North Korea continues to bar South Korean workers and cargo from entering the complex.

   The communist country imposed the entry ban on April 3, three days after it threatened to shut down the factory park, citing South Korean media reports that Pyongyang is unlikely to do so because the complex is its main source for hard currency. The North upbraided the reports as "insulting the dignity of the Kim Jong-un regime."

   As of Sunday, the number of South Korean firms that have halted operations in the complex increased to 13 from four the previous day. There are 123 companies operating in the complex staffed with some 54,000 North Korean workers.

   The ban led to the lack of raw materials necessary for the production of light industry goods and food for workers there, ultimately suspending operations.
It is highly likely for all of the companies to face the same situation sooner or later if the ban continues.

   The Kaesong complex, located just the north of the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas, is the product of inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation through the first-ever inter-Korean summit in 2000 between the late South and North Korean leaders -- Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il.
The complex is not one in which only one of the two Koreas takes profits, nor is it a charity project for the impoverished country.

   The complex is a win-win, cross-border project in which the cash-strapped country earns badly-needed U.S. dollars by providing its labor force, while South Korean companies can secure price competitiveness by making use of the cheap labor. That's why the complex has been able to exist so long since it began operations in December 2004 despite North Korea's innumerable military threats and several bloody provocations.

   The complex is the only remnant of inter-Korean reconciliation left now, and the last bastion that the two Koreas should not give up for the sake of inter-Korean unification that will surely be materialized sometime in the future.

   The North Korean authorities should immediately withdraw the ban with no conditions attached if they indeed have no intention of completely shutting down the complex. No company can survive when a paralysis of its operations is prolonged.

   It's also not the time for Seoul to simply take a wait-and -see approach.

   As requested by officials of the association representing South Korean companies in Kaesong during a meeting with South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae on Saturday, the Seoul government needs to actively seek a direct dialogue with its northern counterpart to discuss the issue.

   The issue should be handled from an economic viewpoint only, irrespective of the ongoing inter-Korean political and military tensions. Its closure, if realized, will cause significant economic damages to South Korean companies as well as to Pyongyang.
To avoid this catastrophic situation, both sides should refrain from dialogue or actions that could further deteriorate the situation.(END)