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North Korea Bans Border Crossings Again

Posted March. 14, 2009 09:43,   


North Korea yesterday blocked 275 South Korean workers seeking to return to the South from the inter-Korean industrial complex in Kaesong, a North Korean border city.

According to the South Korean Unification Ministry, the North did not allow the entry into the North by South Koreans who applied for inland travel via the Gyeongeui Line route scheduled in six rounds. Pyongyang gave no explanation for its action.

Thus, 611 South Koreans and 352 vehicles in the South who were set to enter the North via the Gyeongeui Line inland route were denied entry. Another 275 South Koreans and 107 vehicles seeking to return to the South from Kaesong in the afternoon were detained in the North.

The ministry said the number of South Koreans in the North was 769, including 733 in the complex, 35 on Mount Kumgang, and one in Pyongyang.

After a contingency meeting presided over by South Korean Vice Unification Minister Hong Yang-ho in Seoul, one official said, “We sought to grasp Pyongyang’s intent through the Gaeseong Industrial District Management Committee, but the committee repeatedly told us to wait without giving an explanation.”

Seoul held a news conference around 6:30 p.m. and said it expressed deep regret over Pyongyang’s suspension of border crossings, demanding an immediate resumption.

The South Korean government will likely be blamed for the incident, as it allowed South Korean workers and officials to enter the complex without putting safety measures in place. Pyongyang reopened border crossings via the Gyeongeui Line inland route Tuesday.

South Korean Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said, “I think this could recur. The government will make every effort to prevent such an incident from recurring.”

He made the comments to lawmakers at a general meeting of the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee.

Calls arose for Seoul to demand that Pyongyang take measures to prevent a recurrence or issue an advisory for civilian entrepreneurs to refrain from visiting the North for the time being. The South Korean government did nothing, however.

An official in Seoul said, “The government cannot force civilians from conducting economic activities or simply act against the possibility of suspended border crossings.”

A strategist for North Korean affairs, however, said, “It’s about time for Seoul to consider the strategic vulnerability of the industrial complex since Pyongyang can detain South Koreans anytime it wants.”