Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

April 25, 2013

SKorea demands talks with NKorea on closed factory

(Continued)

The Kaesong complex is the last major symbol of cooperation remaining from an earlier era that saw the Koreas set up various projects to facilitate better ties.

The factory park has operated with South Korean know-how and technology and with cheap labor from North Korea since 2004. It has weathered past cycles of hostility between the rivals, including two attacks blamed on North Korea in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans.

More than 120 South Korean companies, mostly small and medium-sized apparel and electronics firms, operated at Kaesong before North Korean workers stopped showing up on April 9. Raw material came from South Korea, with finished goods later sent back south. Last year, the factories produced goods worth $470 million.

Impoverished North Korea objects to views in South Korea that the park is a source of badly needed hard currency. South Korean companies paid salaries to North Korean workers averaging $127 a month, according to South Korea's government. That is less than one-sixteenth of the average salary of South Korean manufacturer workers.

Pyongyang also has complained about alleged South Korean military plans in the event the North held the Kaesong managers hostage.

South Koreans remaining at Kaesong are free to leave, but have been staying to protect their companies' equipment and products. Their food, which had been brought in before North Korea closed the border, is dwindling, and there has been a daily trickle of managers returning home.

On Wednesday, South Korean President Park Geun-hye said the country won't seek to resolve the Kaesong standoff by making concessions to the North. That was a reference to past liberal governments that were accused of providing the North with almost unconditional financial assistance to promote reconciliation.

"How the Kaesong issue is handled will be a touchstone for whether South-North relations will be predictable and sustainable," Park told South Korean journalists, according to her office. "I want the issue to be resolved quickly, but I would say there should not be a solution like funneling" aid, as has happened in the past.

Kim, the spokesman, said: "It's very regrettable for North Korea to reject (taking) the minimum humanitarian measures for our workers at the Kaesong industrial complex."

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