The South Korean administration is no longer prepared to be dragged around by perverse North Korean policies. Although sticking to its basic stance that the Kaesong Industrial Complex should be retained and developed on a stable basis, the administration has reached the limit of its patience where North Korea’s unreasonable demands are concerned, and is giving clear signals that progress is expected in the near future.
The Ministry of Unification stated after the second working group meeting in Kaesong that the North Korean wage and rent demands are unacceptable. Additionally, President Lee Myung Bak, speaking at the recent South Korea-U.S. Summit in Washington D.C., counterattacked, saying he was willing to decisively determine the future of the Kaesong Complex.
President Lee stated categorically, “North Korea is asking too much. We will not accept their excessive demands.”
He continued, with unusual force, “If North Korea keeps asking too much, I cannot say what decision we might make on the Kaesong Complex.” Some analysts suggest that he is not afraid to close the Complex.
The South Korean administration has hitherto defined its position as wishing to continue to be a part of the Kaesong Complex, because it is considered a symbol of reconciliation and cooperation between the two Koreas. In deciding that businesses operating for “humanitarian and developmental purposes directly addressing the needs of the civilian population” are excluded from sanctions outlined in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1784, they invoked the same principles.
The Southern administration even held its tongue and expressed the hope that North Korea would act sincerely in the case of Hyundai Asan employee Mr. Yoo, until now.
However, since the last contact with North Korea in Kaesong on the 11th, the position of the administration has shifted.
Professor of North Korean Studies at Korea University Yoo Ho Yul interpreted President Lee’s remarks, “It is a strong declaration that we can withdraw from the Complex unless North Korea shows a willingness to negotiate on the issues of wages and rent.”
The Kaesong Complex’ life depends upon the North’s attitude in the working group meeting on the 19th. The Complex will face its greatest challenge yet if North Korea sticks to its position that negotiations are impossible on wages, rent and Mr. Yoo.