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NK's resumption of Kaesong complex violates property rights: Seoul

South Korea's unification ministry said Tuesday that North Korea should not unilaterally resume operations at a now-shuttered joint industrial complex, as the move violates the property rights of local firms running factories there.

The government said that there are no specific signs that confirm North Korea's reopening of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, though some bus movements and illuminated street lamps have been spotted.

North Korea's propaganda outlets indicated last week that it had restarted operation of the factory zone, which Seoul shut down in February 2016 in response to Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests.
Kaesong Industrial Complex (Yonhap)
Kaesong Industrial Complex (Yonhap)

"The government takes the basic stance that North Korea should not infringe on South Korean firms' property rights. We've made clear that factories and machinery at the zone belong to the South's companies," said a ministry official.

The official said that if North Korea resumes operations at the park, it would violate inter-Korean agreements banning random naturalization of Seoul firms' assets. It could also breach the latest UN sanctions barring the North's textile exports.

"Seoul plans to make a fact-finding effort to determine the situation. If local firms apply to visit North Korea to check their assets, the government will consider whether to approve their requests after gauging various factors," he added.

Opened in 2004, the factory zone had housed 124 South Korean firms enploying more than 54,000 North Korean workers to produce labor-intensive goods, such as clothes and utensils.

In retaliation against Seoul's closure of the complex, North Korea kicked out all remaining South Koreans and announced that it would freeze their assets and liquidate them.

A group of local firms investing in the factory zone plans to meet Wednesday to discuss ways to handle the North's potential unauthorized resumption of work there.

Even if Seoul approves their bid to visit North Korea, it is almost impossible for South Korean businessmen to go there if North Korea does not consent. (Yonhap)