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(LEAD) Decision to close Kaesong complex made due to security concerns: Seoul

All Headlines 15:18 October 26, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS photo, remark by S. Korea's unification minister in last 2 paras)

SEOUL, Oct. 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said Wednesday that its decision to close an inter-Korean industrial complex was made out of security concerns in response to North Korea's nuclear and missile tests early this year.

The reaction by Seoul's unification ministry came as a local report claimed Choi Soon-sil, a close confidante to President Park Geun-hye, was involved in state affairs, including the government's February decision to shut down the Kaesong Industrial Complex. She does not hold a government post.

On Feb. 10, Seoul shut down the factory park in the North Korean border city of Kaesong in response to Pyongyang's fourth nuclear test in January and long-range rocket launch in the following month.

Seoul's unification ministry said that the decision was made out of security concerns, effectively dismissing the report.

"The government decided to close the complex as it judged that North Korea's nuclear and missile provocations pose a grave threat to national security and consensus was built over the shutdown," Jeong Joon-hee, a ministry spokesman, told a regular press briefing. "It was no more or no less than that."

Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo (R) speaks to top diplomat Yun Byung-se (L) at the gathering of the parliament's committee on diplomacy and unification on Oct. 26, 2016 (Yonhap)

Choi is at the center of a corruption scandal in which she allegedly pushed conglomerates into making donations to two nonprofit foundations by using her ties to Park.

Television network JTBC reported Monday that Choi allegedly had received and edited drafts of presidential speeches before they were publicly delivered.

Among the speeches was Park's key address on reunification delivered in Dresden, Germany, in March 2014.

On Tuesday, President Park made a public apology over the speech leaks to Choi, acknowledging her ties.

The ministry spokesman said that government agencies usually are consulted in the process of finalizing the details of presidential speeches, adding that the Dresden address is such a case.

Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo told lawmakers that the speech contained proposals made by relevant ministries over content, rejecting the speculation that it might have been revised by Choi.

"There is no change in the address's key message. I hope that people do not misunderstand that an outsider intervened in writing a presidential speech," Hong said. Hong served as a presidential secretary on unification at that time.


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