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Inter-Korean Projects Starting to Shut Down

Posted November. 29, 2008 08:10,   


In the wake of North Korea’s decision to restrict overland passage to Mount Kumgang and Kaesong from Monday, tours to the North and inter-Korean rail service have been halted.

The Inter-Korean Exchanges and Cooperation Consultation Office was also closed yesterday.

Tours to Kaesong that began Dec. 5 last year were indefinitely suspended after the last group of 210 tourists visited the city yesterday. The cumulative number of South Korean visitors to Kaesong is 111,770.

The last group of tourists left the Dorasan immigration office at 9 a.m. for Kaesong and returned at 5 p.m., according to Hyundai Asan Corp., the South Korean exclusive tour operator in the North.

The company pulled out its tour guides, drivers and three out of its four full-time workers in Kaesong.

The operation of inter-Korean railways linking South Korea`s Munsan and North Korea`s Pongdong, which commenced Dec. 11 last year, was also indefinitely stopped after its 222nd operation yesterday.

The train departed from Dorasan station around 9:30 a.m. without freight and returned at 2:30 p.m.

Most of the nine civilians working for the inter-Korean office also returned yesterday. Staff of companies operating in the Kaesong industrial complex and the facility’s management committee will leave by Sunday.

Pyongyang had originally asked the committee to withdraw half of the personnel, but 37 of the 53 South Korean staff with permits to stay will be allowed to remain, according to the South Korean Unification Ministry.

Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun said, “4,168 personnel at the Kaesong complex have received permits to stay from the North, and another 1,500 to 1,700 people were also notified that they will receive permission to stay next month.”

Some 1,200 people returned to the South yesterday alone through the overland passage of the eastern Donghae Line. Those who have gotten permission to remain in the North, however, plan to return there Monday after spending the weekend at home.

kyle@donga.com abc@donga.com