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(Yonhap Editorial) Pyongyang's rash act over Kaesong complex
SEOUL, April 9 (Yonhap) -- The inter-Korean industrial complex in the North Korean border town of Kaesong is facing its biggest-ever crisis as Pyongyang took steps on Monday to pull out all North Korean workers from it and suspend business there.

   Kim Yang-gon, a high-ranking official in charge of inter-Korean affairs at the North's Workers' Party, announced the steps during a sudden visit to the complex -- home to 123 small South Korean companies that hire over 53,000 North Korean workers.

   "(North Korea) will examine the issue of whether it will allow its (the complex) existence or close . ... How the situation will develop in the days ahead will entirely depend on the attitude of the south Korean authorities," Kim said in a statement carried by the (North) Korean Central News Agency.

   The combination of South Korea's capital and technology, and the North's cheap labor force has survived numerous inter-Korean confrontations and tensions since its launch in December 2004. The complex is estimated to have produced some US$2 billion worth of goods over the past nine years, with North Korea earning some US$90 million per annum in wages.
In addition to its economic values, the complex, near the Demilitarized Zone bisecting the two Koreas, has been a symbol of and a foundation for inter-Korean reconciliation, cooperation and peace.

   In light of the importance of the factory park's existence, the North's one-sided steps, only heightening tensions on the Korean Peninsula, are very rash and regrettable.

   Pyongyang has been fanning inter-Korean tensions with various near-daily threats since its third nuclear test in February and ensued tougher U.S. sanctions against it.

   The threats range from pre-emptive nuclear attacks to the nullification of the inter-Korean Armistice Agreement, a declaration of a state of war and the restart of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities.

   In deciding the temporary suspension, the North set forth absurd reasons that it claimed gravely insulted the dignity of its leadership.

   Kim berated South Korean media stories speculating that Pyongyang is unlikely to completely close the complex because it is a main source of U.S. dollars for the cash-strapped country, and the South Korean defense minister's remarks that the army will conduct an operation to rescue South Korean workers in the complex in case they are held hostage. Currently, more than 470 South Koreans are staying there.

   It's natural for news media in a democratic country to present various analyses on critical issues, and for a defense minister to make remarks guaranteeing the safety of people in the event of a military contingency and under the North's nuclear threat.

   The North appears to have taken irresponsible steps toward the shutdown of the complex, citing such unconvincing reasons.

   It's true for South companies in the complex to suffer great damages from the possible closure, but its biggest victim will be Pyongyang itself.

   No foreign investment will head for the extremely impoverished and unpredictable country.

   The closure will surely affect South Korean companies whose production amounts to $1.28 million and the livelihoods of 53,000 North Korean workers and their family members. It will also mean the loss of $90 million of earnings for the North.

   The Seoul government warned that the North should take complete responsibility for the closure.

   South Korean President Park Geun-hye also expressed deep disappointment over the temporary closure during a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, saying, "How long should we see this endless vicious cycle of (North Korea) creating crises before reaching compromise in exchange for aid and again creating crises before compromise and aid?"

   The North Korean regime should restart the complex's operation immediately in order to not further aggravate inter-Korean relations.
(END)
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