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(LEAD) No evidence of money from Kaesong complex being used for N.K. nukes: Seoul official

All News 14:27 July 13, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS more info in last 6 paras)

SEOUL, July 13 (Yonhap) -- A ranking South Korea official said Thursday there is no evidence that money generated from a now suspended joint inter-Korean industrial complex bankrolled North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

In February 2016, Seoul shut down the Kaesong Industrial Complex in response to the North's nuclear and missile tests, saying the move is aimed at preventing the money from being funneled into North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile development.

"For now, there is no evidence to support views that the money generated from the factory zone was converted to (North Korea's nuclear and missile programs)," the senior official said, asking not to be named.

This file photo taken May 15, 2017, shows the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a joint factory zone in North Korea's border city of the same name. (Yonhap)

The government under President Moon Jae-in's predecessor said that since the establishment of the complex in 2004, around US$560 million in total has been provided to North Korean workers at the factory zone, including $120 million in 2015 alone.

How income is provided to North Korean workers at the complex has been under the spotlight due to the possibility that it may violate U.N. sanctions resolutions on North Korea.

Previously, South Korean firms sent wages for the North Korean workers in dollars to the North's committee running the complex via a branch of a local bank in Kaesong. The committee then distributed coupons or North Korean bills equivalent to about 30-40 percent of the total wages to the workers after sending the hard currency to the North Korean regime.

South Korea's unification ministry earlier said the resumption of the industrial park would hinge on progress in the resolution of North Korea's nuclear and missile problems.

A resumption of the complex could spur a dispute over South Korea's possible violation of international sanctions.

The senior government official also struck such a view, though he said there is no specific evidence about the wage's possible conversion.

"(For the resumption of the factory zone), there needs to be (the resolution) of North Korea's nuclear issue and a turnaround in strained inter-Korean ties," he said. "We need to comprehensively take into account such factors (for the re-opening)."

Touching on the so-called Moon's Berlin proposal, the official said that South Korea will make persistent efforts to improve inter-Korean ties.

Moon unveiled a broad vision for bringing peace to the Korean Peninsula during his speech in Berlin last Thursday, two days after the North test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

He proposed that the two Koreas mutually suspend acts of hostility along their tense border on the July 27 anniversary of the armistice treaty that ended conflict in the 1950-53 Korean War.

Moon also offered to hold reunions of families torn apart by the war on Oct. 4, Korea's lunar fall harvest holiday and the 10th anniversary of the second inter-Korean summit.

The Chosun Sinbo, a pro-North Korean newspaper based in Japan, said Tuesday that Moon should not expect a positive response from Pyongyang to his proposal if he continues to seek its submission to the United States. It urged Seoul to end its joint military drills with Washington.

"North Korea previously took time to gauge a new South Korean government. Currently, situations on the peninsula are much graver," the official said. "We will make efforts (to make better ties) with patience and from a long-term perspective."

This photo taken on July 6, 2017, shows South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivering a speech in Berlin over his vision for bringing peace to the Korean Peninsula. (Yonhap)


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