A potential visit by 200 South Korean businessmen to the now-shuttered Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) will likely not happen despite warming inter-Korean relations, the Ministry of Unification (MOU) said on Monday.
The emergency measures committee, which represents former KIC business owners, on February 26 requested the unification ministry allow a visit to the plant.
The group of 200 representatives had hoped to travel to the former inter-Korean industrial park – which has now been closed for over two years – on Monday to check the complex’s factories and equipment.
“The government sympathizes with the stance of the enterprises that there is need to check factories in person,” spokesperson for the unification ministry Baik Tae-hyun said during a regular press briefing on Monday, while adding the visit would likely have to be put on hold.
Pyongyang is yet to respond to the businesspeople’s desire to visit the plant and would likely be aware of the request due to coverage in South Korean media, an official at the MOU confirmed to NK News.
“An invitation from the North Korean side is required before they visit the North, but there has been no response from Pyongyang,” Baik told assembled media.
“So, I believe that the approval for the visit to the North will be put off like last time if this situation continues.”
The two Koreas are yet to discuss the issue, according to the official, and Seoul has not requested the North issue an invitation for the visit.
The unification ministry will finalize its stance on the visit by Thursday.
The Moon Jae-in administration’s stance on the resumption of economic cooperation at the KIC “remains unchanged,” Baik added, adding that the issue would have to be dealt with taking into account international sanctions.
“The issue of reopening the Kaesong Industrial Complex should be discussed as inter-Korean relations and the North Korean nuclear issue make progress in a reciprocal and cyclical relationship,” the spokesperson said.
Last month saw the emergency committee’s fifth request to visit Kaesong since the Park Geun-hye administration’s decision to suspend operations in February 2016.
Prior to February, their most recent request was made in October, and, despite calls from the unification minister, it was rejected by the North.
DPRK state-run outlet Uriminzokkiri at the time claimed that the South Korean government had “no right, justification, and decency” to send former KIC businessmen to the complex.
The emergency measures committee resubmitted the request on February 26 – amid significantly improved inter-Korean relations – in a written statement.
“The reason why we have the great expectations than ever is that we see hopes in improving inter-Korean relations since the West Sea military communication line as well as an overland route of Gyeongui Line [were reopened], air, and sea routes by with the PyeongChang Winter Olympics as a momentum,” the committee said.
“We hope that both South and North Korean authorities put every effort so that our businessmen can check assets and minimize the deterioration of equipment.”
Meanwhile, the unification ministry on Monday said North Korea appeared to be taking a “cautious approach,” when asked why the North is yet to comment on two upcoming DPRK-ROK and DPRK-U.S. summits.
Both updates, however, have come from South Korean officials – with no mention from the North Korean government.
“The North Korean authorities haven’t made any official response regarding the North – U.S. summit,” Baik said during the briefing. “I believe that North Korea is taking a cautious approach, and they need time to [develop] a clear stance.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee (KIDMAC)
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