• Kaesong firms lose $1B from North-South tensions

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    SEOUL: The South Korean government on Tuesday put the total losses so far of companies involved in the shuttered North-South Kaesong joint industrial zone at close to $1 billion.

    Operations at the 123 South Korean factories in Kaesong ground to a halt after the North pulled all its workers out in early April, amid soaring military tensions with Seoul.
    The South withdrew its managers and officials soon afterwards.

    Overall losses sustained since then amounted to 1.05 trillion won ($910 million), the South’s Unification Ministry said.

    The total was based on claims submitted by 234 businesses that either had factories in Kaesong or were affiliated with the firms there, the ministry said.

    Established in 2004 as a rare symbol of inter-Korean cooperation, the Kaesong joint industrial zone was the most high-profile casualty of two months of elevated tensions that followed the North’s nuclear test in February.

    Born out of the “Sunshine Policy” of inter-Korean conciliation initiated in the late 1990s by then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, Kaesong was a crucial hard currency source for the impoverished North, through taxes and revenues, and its cut of worker wages.

    The future of the complex had been set to top the agenda at scheduled high-level talks between the two Koreas in Seoul earlier this month.

    But the meeting was called off after both sides failed to agree on the level of the chief delegates who would represent them at the negotiations.

    The association representing the South Korean firms with assets in Kaesong have criticized Seoul and Pyongyang for playing political football with their businesses.

    AFP

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