The suspension of the Gaeseong Industrial Complex that was once a symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation marked the first anniversary since the measure was put in place on Friday, but there is little sign it will be resumed soon.
During a media briefing on Thursday, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Cho June-hyuck said reopening Gaeseong is not consistent with the international community’s sanction-based approach towards Pyongyang.
He said as long as the North continues its nuclear and missile provocations and does not address concerns over the misappropriation of the Gaeseong workers' salaries, resuming operations at the complex could stir controversy about violations of UN resolutions.
A Unification Ministry official also said on Tuesday that significant changes to the North’s nuclear issue would need to be addresses before discussions about resuming operations at Gaeseong.
The official said it is important now to maintain strong pressure on the North, together with the international community, so that Pyongyang will make the right choice toward denuclearization.
On February tenth of last year, Seoul suspended operations of the complex as part of sanctioning the North in the wake of Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test and launch of a long-range missile in early 2016.
The North in return expelled South Korean workers at Gaeseong and froze South Korean assets left behind at the factory park.
The industrial complex, located across the demilitarized zone(DMZ), began its operation in December of 2004. Over the years, the complex had been a substantial source of income for the North, while South Korean companies at the complex had also benefited from cheap North Korean labor.
As of July 2015, the cumulative production volume of the inter-Korean industrial park reached two-point-996 billion dollars.
The suspension of the crucial project consequently took a toll on the annual inter-Korean trade, which dropped to 330 million dollars last year, the smallest volume since 220 million dollars in 1998.
Last year’s inter-Korean trade becomes almost nil when the trade through Gaeseong made before February 10th is not taken into account.
The number of Koreans traveling across the inter-Korean borders also plummeted to around 15-thousand last year, the smallest level since 2002.
According to the Unification Ministry, the South Korean companies at Gaeseong suffered around 778 billion won in losses due to the shutdown of the factory park.