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Political parties lock horns over gov't decision to shut down Gaeseong complex

The ruling and opposition parties locked horns on Saturday over the government's decision to close down the Gaeseong Industrial Complex in North Korea.

The ruling Saenuri Party said the Minjoo Party of Korea and other opposition parties are turning the shutdown into a tool to win votes in the upcoming general elections.

"The move was necessary to safeguard national security in the face of mounting provocations by the North," Rep. Shin Yee-jin, the party's spokeswoman said. She pointed out that unless stringent measures are taken at this juncture, there is no way to get the North to turn its tide.

The decision to close Gaeseong, which has been churning out goods since late 2004, directly impacts 124 South Korean companies that have manufacturing operations in the North Korean town just north of the inter-Korean demarcation line. 

It also cuts off the last remaining economic link between the two countries, although Seoul said the move is needed to stop the flow of cash that can be used to bolster up the Kim Jong-un regime and allow it to build up its nuclear and long-range missile arsenal.

The belligerent regime fired off a multi-stage missile, which could have the capability to target parts of the United States, on Sunday, only a month after it detonated its fourth nuclear device on Jan. 6. Both actions are seen as a slap in the face of past warnings issued against North Korea by countries around the world.

The spokesperson said that the National Assembly should have one voice when it comes to national security, but the opposition only seems to be interested in criticizing the government.

She then said that the opposition actions are fueling worries among the general public.

"If the opposition is trying to use the Gaeseong closure to win support ahead of the April election, it can only be seen as these parties have seriously deficient views when it comes to national security," the lawmaker said.

The opposition parties, on the other hand, blasted the Gaeseong closure as counterproductive and harmful to long-term cross-border relations.

In particular, they attacked remarks made by Seoul's unification minister, who argued that the complex conflicted with United Nations Resolution 2094 banning the flow of funds to the North that can be used to make missile and nuclear weapons.

Rep. Kim Sung-soo spokesman for the Minjoo Party said the unification ministry's comments are a serious matter and shows that the government admitted to breaking the resolution.

"Unless this matter is explained properly, it may be hard for people to believe that funds that went to Gaeseong were misused to make the North's nuclear weapons," he said.

Others like Chang Jin-young, the spokesman for the minor People's Party said that of the US$100 million in funds sent to the North through Gaeseong, about 70 percent is used to pay for wages, with only 30 percent going to the state.

"The funds at the government's disposal is enough and I don't think even President Park Geun-hye really thinks the money was used to make missiles and nuclear weapons," the official claimed.

He then said the government's decision, while it can lead to
120 billion won (US$100 million) in lost revenue for the North Korean regime, can lead to 2 trillion won in damages for South Korea and hurt local small and medium-sized enterprises and their employees.

"By taking such drastic actions, President Park is inflicting serious damages not only onto North Korea, but local firms and workers," Chang claimed. (Yonhap)

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