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Pyongyang must accept the offer of talks

Posted April. 26, 2013 06:50,   


The Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea has been suspended for the 18th day since Pyongyang stopped its workers from going there. It has been 24 days since South Korean workers and supplies were banned to go to Kaesong through the path linking the two Koreas. The 124 South Korean companies in the complex have been heavily damaged by the suspension in production, cancellation of contracts by foreign buyers, and request for return of investment facilities. Some 53,000 North Korean workers who happened to lose their job overnight must be worried about their living by now. The notion that North Korea is untrustworthy will be further reinforced by Pyongyang, which completely ignores the inter-Korean agreement and trade ethics. All of this is caused by North Korea.

If nothing is done now, the Kaesong complex cannot revive. The Unification Ministry of South Korea proposed a working-level meeting to North Korea to address the issue and said, “If North Korea rejects the offer, we’ll take a material action.” If Pyongyang has an intention to maintain the complex, it has no reason to hesitate to accept the offer.

Seoul did its best to address the problem through dialogues. Despite the repeated threats from North Korea, Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae proposed talks on April 11. A couple of days ago, Seoul proposed a meeting between South Korea’ head of the Kaesong Industrial Complex and North Korea’s head of the Central Special District Development Department several times. North Korea, however, rejected the proposal and even refused to accept documents containing requests from the South. Pyongyang should take it seriously that yesterday’s offer is an official one from Seoul.

If the North rejects any talks, it should be fully responsible for the suspension of the industrial complex. It is making a mistake that cannot be tolerated from a humanitarian perspective in the complex. The 177 South Korean workers in the complex are very nervous and do not have even proper food. It is an anti-humanitarian act that cuts food supplies and medical service to South Korean workers. The Park Geun-hye administration approved the supply of tuberculosis medicine to the North despite the confrontation and Pyongyang accepted it. Pyongyang should feel shameful that it accepts humanitarian aid from the South while ignoring the pain of South Korean workers in the complex.

The South Korean Unification Ministry asked the North to respond to the offer of talks by this morning. This means that the situation is quite urgent. If the North ignores the third offer, Seoul should understand that it has no willingness to resume the operation of the complex and come up with emergency actions. Pyongyang should know that the actions could include not only measures to minimize the impact of South Korean companies there but also withdrawal of all South Korean staff from the complex.