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North Korea Ordered Military Takeover of Kaesong

A truck passes the bridge between North and South Korea after leaving the Kaesong Industrial Complex. Tensions have increased as the North has expelled South Koreans and seized assets in response to the South's suspension of the project.
North Korea Answers Suspension of Industrial Complex by South
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North Korea has declared a military takeover of the Kaesong industrial area and called South Korea’s decision to suspend operations a “declaration of war.”

North Korea said it was responding to South Korea’s decision to suspend operations at the jointly-run Kaesong industrial area.

The North also froze South Korean assets and expelled South Koreans from the factory.

South Korea suspended operations in response to North Korea launching a long-range missile Sunday.

The North said the missile test was to put an “earth observation” satellite in orbit. But the United States, South Korea and other nations said the launch tested a missile able to carry a nuclear weapon. North Korea also tested a nuclear weapon in January.

U.S. Senate approves sanctions bill

In addition to South Korea’s move to close Kaesong, the United States Senate approved sanctions against the North after the missile launch.

The sanctions target the North’s nuclear program and its poor human rights record. The economic sanctions are meant to reduce revenue going the government of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Republican Senator Bob Corker is the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He said the bill would require the president to look at a number of issues related to North Korea.

“The president will be required to investigate a wide range of sanctionable conduct, including proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, arms-related materials, luxury goods, which affect the elite in that country, human rights abuses, activities undermining cybersecurity...”

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland said the bill penalizes Chinese and other groups that work with North Korea.

Over the weekend, China joined other members of the UN Security Council to approve a statement condemning North Korea’s missile launch. The council pledged to quickly adopt a resolution with “significant” new sanctions against North Korea. So far, that has not happened.

Kaesong an important symbol of Korean cooperation

The Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea
The Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea

The suspension of the Kaesong industrial area will be costly for North Korea.

James Kim is with the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, based in Seoul. He said the suspension would cost North Korea about $100 million a year in lost income. He said the amount is considerable “for an economy that’s not that big.”

The special industrial area was opened in 2004 as an economic link between the two Koreas. It is also a symbol of reconciliation between the two sides. Trade in the special zone has grown regularly over the years.

However, operations at Kaesong have been suspended before. In 2013, North Korea withdrew its workers and closed down the area for five months.

David Straub of Stanford University said it is unclear what impact the sanctions would have if the U.S. legislation is signed into law.

He said the recent developments were not a surprise. He added that the decision to suspend work at more than 120 factories was difficult for South Korean President Park Geun-hye. He said the cost to South Korean companies that have invested in the project will be high.

Since 2013, North Korea has pursued what has been called a Byunjin policy of developing the “economy and nuclear weapons.” North Korea considers both important for its independence.

I’m Mario Ritter.

Michael Bowman, Victor Beattie, the Associated Press and Reuters reported on this story. Mario Ritter wrote this report for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.


Words in This Story

revenue – n. money made or paid to a business or organization

penalize – v. to punish a person, group or country for breaking a rule

rein in – v. to limit or control something

reconciliation – n. the act of causing two people or groups to become friendly again after a disagreement

responding - v. making a statement to answer something else

assets - n. valuables, such as property and investments

sanctions - n. measures threatening punishment for disobeying rules or laws

pledged - v. promised