Posted March. 17, 2009 09:23,
North Korea yesterday allowed 294 South Koreans working in the inter-Korean industrial complex in Kaesong to return to the South.
Pyongyang, however, kept its entry ban that it placed Friday and prevented South Korean workers and vehicles attempting to return to the complex from passing the border.
In addition, 169 South Korean entrepreneurs and workers decided to stay in Kaesong due to the possibility that the North could prevent them from returning to the complex.
The North agreed to send back 453 South Koreans who had been stranded in the complex to the South around 9:20 a.m. yesterday, but 655 South Koreans who wanted to visit North Korea were not allowed in.
Many businesses in the complex fear that the North could spur South Korean companies to withdraw from Kaesong.
The South Korean Unification Ministry said South Koreans in the complex held a meeting on countermeasures yesterday. In the meeting, 169 who had planned to return to the South decided to remain in Kaesong.
A total of 294 South Koreans and 152 vehicles 159 people at 3 p.m., 114 people at 4 p.m., and 21 people at 5 p.m. returned to the South yesterday. All of them had been scheduled to return to South Korea over the weekend and yesterday.
The number of South Koreans remaining in the complex has thus fallen from 725 to 431.
The ministry, however, announced late yesterday that it has yet to reach an agreement with the North on whether to allow border passage via the inter-Korean railways of Gyeongeui and Donghae and how many people could be allowed to pass the border today.
The association of companies in the complex released a statement urging the North to normalize border passage at the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Office at Dorasan Station in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, near the Demilitarized Zone. The association also asked for guaranteed free border passage for South Koreans.
North Koreas border closure has blocked delivery of supplies, raw materials and daily necessities from South Korea, thus threatening a disruption in operations, it said.
The National Unification Advisory Council in Seoul also discussed the Norths border closure and suspected attempt to test-fire missiles at the Office of South-North Dialogue.
At the meeting, participants said many South Koreans were stranded in the complex in the wake of the Norths border ban, urging Seoul to abide by the principle of protecting its own citizens and inter-Korean agreements in dealing with this matter.