Seoul is not considering the withdrawal of South Korean workers from the joint inter-Korean industrial complex in the North Korean city of Gaeseong, Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said Friday.
“When the situation requires, the withdrawal should be carried out for the safety of workers there,” the minister said in a press conference with foreign correspondents in Seoul. But for now, the conditions are not that serious, “therefore (the government) is not considering withdrawal,” the policymaker said.
Amid escalating inter-Korean tensions following Pyongyang’s detonation of its third nuclear device on Feb. 12, the North on Wednesday banned entry of South Korean workers’ and vehicles’ into the industrial park, located just north of the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas. It, however, has not barred workers from leaving.
|Ryoo Kihl-jae. (Yonhap News)|
The North has also repeatedly threatened to shut down the park where 123 South Korean firms have built factories to produce light industry goods using cheap North Korean labor.
Ryoo said normalizing the inter-Korean economic project is up to the North since the country first moved to disrupt operations at the industrial park. “North Korea should take the initiative ... It is up to North Korea to allow access into the Gaeseong Industrial Complex,” Ryoo said.
He stressed that Seoul does not want closure of the industrial park and desires stable management and development of the Gaeseong complex.
“Now security on the Korean Peninsula is unstable and inter-Korean relations is facing a crisis, but the South’s Park Geun-hye administration will have its doors open to talk with the North,” the minister said.
Inter-Korean relations took a dive in recent weeks as the North repeatedly issued military threats and took a series of actions worsening already frail ties with Seoul.
The country unilaterally nullified the truce agreements ending the 1950-53 Korean War last month and also severed all military hotlines with Seoul. (Yonhap News)