Pyongyang's propaganda outlets indicated last week that it had restarted operation of Kaesong Industrial Complex, which was shut down in February 2016, after the reclusive country tested a nuclear device and fire off missiles.
"The assets invested in Kaesong Industrial Complex are ours, so North Korea should immediately stop using (them) without our consent," Shin Han-yong, who heads an association of Kaesong industrial park's tenant companies, said in a briefing. "The governments of South and North Korea should allow Kaesong companies to visit the complex to check whether the factories are being operated without our permission and make it possible to manage and preserve our equipment."
|Heads of South Korean companies that left their factories behind in the now-shuttered Kaesong industrial complex hold a meeting in Seoul on Oct. 11, 2017, to ask the government to authorize their visit to North Korea to check their properties. (Yonhap)|
Though some bus movement and illuminated street lamps have been spotted, Seoul's Unification Ministry said Tuesday there are no specific signs that the factory zone is actually in operation.
The Seoul government said North's unilateral resumption of factory operations violates the property rights of local factories. It pointed out that the country, even if it makes textiles, cannot export them due to the latest UN sanctions.
The ministry said it will review the businessmen's application for the trip to North Korea based on various factors. Even if the Seoul government gives the go-ahead, it is unclear whether Pyongyang would also allow the businessmen into the industrial complex.
In a separate statement to President Moon Jae-in, the business people urged the government to make efforts to normalize the complex.
"Restarting the factory operation has been our ultimate goal, but we have only demanded compensation for our financial damage considering the government's conundrum," Shin said. "We hope the new government will help Kaesong companies to resume operation and play a leading role in (inter-Korean) cooperation."
Opened in 2004, the factory zone had housed 124 South Korean firms employing more than 54,000 North Korean workers to produce labor-intensive goods, such as clothes and miscellaneous utensils. (Yonhap)