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S. Korean bizmen seek gov't approval to visit Kaesong industrial park

All News 11:00 June 08, 2016

SEOUL, June 8 (Yonhap) -- A group of South Korean businessmen asked the government Wednesday to approve their visit to the now-shuttered joint industrial park in North Korea to check their factories.

Thirty businessmen made the request to visit the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the North's border city of the same name next Monday, an association representing the 124 local companies that have operations in the joint park said.

It said the businessmen wanted to check their facilities ahead of the summer rainy season.

On Feb. 10, South Korea shut down the factory zone, some 50 kilometers northwest of Seoul, in response to the North's fourth nuclear test and long-range rocket launch early this year.

"To minimize losses, we submitted the application to visit North Korea to check machines at the zone and help map out a plan to keep facilities intact," the group said in a a statement.

The South Korean firms have claimed that they have suffered more than 815 billion won (US$701.4 million) in losses from the shutdown, adding that a set of the government's supportive measures are not enough to cover their damage.

But Seoul's unification ministry is not likely to approve their plan to visit the North as it has made it clear that the companies' bid is not appropriate.

A ministry official said Tuesday that it is not proper for the firms to seek to visit North Korea as the international community has slapped tougher sanctions against the North over its nuke and missile provocations.

South Korean nationals need Seoul's approval as well as the North's consent for a trip to the communist nation. The two Koreas still remain technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

The industrial complex, which opened in 2004, served as a major revenue source for the cash-strapped North, while South Korea has benefited from cheap but skilled North Korean labor.

But Seoul ended the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation over concerns that the money generated from the complex might bankroll North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

In March, North Korea countered that it will nullify all cross-border agreements on economic cooperation arrangements and liquidate South Korean assets in retaliation for Seoul's move to impose unilateral sanctions.

South Korea unveiled a set of punitive actions including banning the entry of vessels that have made a port call in the North and blacklisting key North Korean officials and entities.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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