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(LEAD) S. Korea not considering closure of Kaesong complex

All News 17:50 January 22, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS more info in last 3 paras)

SEOUL, Jan. 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's pointman on inter-Korean affairs made it clear Friday the government is not considering shutting down a joint industrial complex in North Korea or withdraw South Koreans from there despite the North's nuclear test.

"The government is seeking to focus on how to operate the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the North in a stable manner," Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo said in a press briefing.

His remarks came amid concerns that an extension of inter-Korean tension sparked by the North's nuke test early this month may lead to a temporary closure of the complex.

In April 2013, the North shut down the complex for about four months, citing what it called heightened tensions sparked by a military drill between Seoul and Washington.

South Korea has recently imposed an entry limit on its nationals to the factory zone in the North's border city of Kaesong to ensure the safety of its people there.

"But as President Park Geun-hye earlier said, how the situation over the complex develops will depend on North Korea," Hong said, leaving the door open for further restrictive measures.

A total of 124 South Korean firms operate at the factory zone, employing about 54,000 North Korean workers to produce labor-intensive products.

The complex is standing at the center of attention amid divided views over whether Seoul should utilize the complex as a means of sanctions or if the factory zone should be subject to the U.N. Security Council's sanctions to punish the North.

Seoul has insisted that the factory zone, the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation, be an exception to any set of U.N. sanctions.

Hong also said that the government will consistently pursue President Park's signature inter-Korean policy, known as the Korean Peninsula Trust-Building Process.

Park has laid out her inter-Korean policy, which is aimed at building mutual trust to pave the way for reunification.

"The government will sternly respond to North Korea's provocations while seeking to take a principled approach when it comes to inter-Korean dialogue," he added.

Meanwhile, North Korea Friday refused to accept a resolution adopted by South Korea's parliament condemning the North's nuclear test and calling for it to give up its nuclear arsenal, according to government officials. Seoul intended to deliver it to the North through a liaison official at a truce village.

On Jan. 8, the National Assembly unanimously passed the resolution denouncing the North's provocation, warning that Pyongyang's reckless behavior will draw international pressure and deepen its isolation.

The North rejected similar resolutions in 2006 and 2013 when it conducted its first and third nuclear tests. North Korea's second nuke test was carried out in 2009.


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