In a move which many viewed as an effort to pacify her critics, earlier this week conservative South Korean President Park Guen-Hye gave North Korea just 24 hours to discuss the closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex or else face “serious measures”. Few were surprised when Pyongyang refused the ultimatum.
But in an escalation of tensions, South Korea has chosen to withdraw the roughly 175 South Koreans who had remained at the factory complex.
Kaesong is a jointly-operated manufacturing park which is considered to be the barometer of inter-Korean relations. Because it provides North Korea with a much-needed infusion of foreign cash, many were surprised when on April 8 Pyongyang closed the complex and sent home their 53,000 workers.
But critics say that Kaesong is essentially an exploitative sweatshop. North Korean workers toil for less than $3 per day, or about 5% of what their counterparts in the South would earn. No one knows how much the government of Kim Jong-Eun takes from these meager wages, but by far the biggest winners are the low to mid-range South Korean manufacturing companies.
Since its opening in 2004 the industrial park, located just 10 kilometers north of the Demilitarized Zone, had previously been exempt from the continual political conflict on the Korean peninsula.
Despite the current tensions, many view the Kaesong Industrial Complex as proof that the reunification of Korea has already begun. So not only is Kaesong expected to reopen but many believe that, one day, there will be dozens more just like it.
- Korean tension escalates as South withdraws workers from Kaesong (disclose.tv)
- Korean tension escalates as South withdraws workers from Kaesong (trunewsmedia.wordpress.com)