Koreas agree to reopen Kaesong complex near DMZ
SEOUL – The Kaesong Industrial Complex, the most high-profile symbol of inter-Korea cooperation, will reopen for business Monday.
The South Korean Ministry of Unification announced Wednesday that representatives of the North and South had hammered out details in overnight negotiations for the reopening of the jointly run facility just north of the Demilitarized Zone, which has been closed for five months.
When operational, nearly 1,000 South Koreans commute through the heavily guarded DMZ and three miles into the North to work primarily as supervisors for more than 53,000 North Koreans, who provide cheap labor for the 123 South-owned businesses there.
Workers at the manufacturing plants turn out products including electronics, automobile parts, clothing and textiles.
In April, the North barred South Koreans from crossing the border to work at the complex, and allowed those already at the facility to leave. It has sat idle and empty ever since.
The move was in response to U.N. sanctions following a North Korean satellite launch and its third nuclear test — coupled with uncharacteristically conspicuous shows of force by the U.S. military during exercises in South Korea — that led to a steady escalation of tit-for-tat actions.
U.S. military leaders and politicians called it the most dangerous and volatile standoffs so far, with the North threatening to launch nuclear weapons against South Korea and U.S. territory.
North Korea has threatened to close the facility on a number of occasions since it opened in 2004, and in 2009 hundreds of South Korean workers were stranded at the complex’s housing facilities for days when the North closed the border in protest of joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises.
The reopening of the complex is one of several recent examples of improving relations between the two Koreas.