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Kaesong firms pressure Seoul to approve N.K. visit

South Korean firms suffering snowballing financial damage from the shutdown of an inter-Korean industrial complex four months ago urged the government on Wednesday to allow them to visit North Korea to check their remaining assets before the rainy season.

Seoul shut down the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the North's border city on Feb. 10 in response to Pyongyang's January nuclear test and long-range rocket launch in February.

With the Kaesong investors' losses mounting, the government last month offered 386.5 billion won ($334.7 million) in compensation to the companies. The Korean firms, who reported a combined 944.6 billion won in financial losses in the first three months, urged the government to take full responsibility for inflicting damage by doing an abrupt about-face on its North Korean policy.

Chung Ki-seop, who heads an emergency committee for the companies, said company officials will hold rallies starting next week to pressure the government and raise public awareness of the issue.

"We decided to hold rallies as follow-up measures to boycotting the government's support measures," Chung said. "We will hold rallies and street demonstrations, and also distribute leaflets to raise awareness of our suffering."

They will also request the government to allow their visit to North Korea within the month. Their previous request on June 8 was not accepted by the government.

"Our demand is not an immediate resumption of Kaesong park. We are asking the government to allow us to visit the complex to check our equipment as the rainy season is starting," Chung said. "The government should approve our visit because assets in the Kaesong park are also South Korean assets."

Later on Wednesday, Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo visited two firms that were operating at the joint industrial complex and vowed to take responsibility for normalization of their management.

"We will promptly provide liquid assets to support the companies normalize their management," he said.

The complex, located some 50 kilometers northwest of Seoul, had served as a major revenue source for the cash-strapped North since opening in 2004. More than 54,000 North Korean workers produced labor-intensive goods, such as clothes and utensils, there. (Yonhap)

Korea Herald daum