|Members of an emergency planning committee for the Corporate Association of Gaeseong Industrial Complex stage a protest in front of the headquarters of the Ministry of Unification in Seoul, Wednesday, demanding their visit to the now-closed business park in North Korea. / Yonhap|
By Lee Min-hyung
South Korean businesspeople who invested in the North's Gaeseong Industrial Complex, have asked the government to allow them to visit the now-closed factory park, citing the need for maintenance of their facilities there.
One hundred and twenty-three South Korean companies were forced to shut down their operations there in February 2016. They have since formed an emergency planning committee, and requested access to the complex six times, which were all rejected by the government.
On Wednesday, the committee submitted their seventh request to the Ministry of Unification. The businesspeople asked for the ministry to allow 179 representatives of them to visit the site to inspect their equipment on Jan. 16.
"The operation of the Gaeseong complex should resume within the first half of this year," Shin Han-yong, chairman of the Corporate Association of the Gaeseong Industrial Complex, said in a press conference in Seoul, Wednesday.
"If the issue is not resolved by the end of this year, we will be exhausted. Earlier last year, the PyeongChang Winter Olympics was the talk of the town, and the Gaeseong Industrial Complex should be the major topic of discussion this year."
The committee went on to argue that the government should request that the international community make an exception on North Korean sanctions in such inter-Korean reconciliatory business projects.
Even if South Korea grants permission for them to access the complex, chances are slim for them to resume their business as of now, as the United Nations remains firm in maintaining heavy economic sanctions on the North.
Earlier this year, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in a New Year address that he is willing to reopen the complex and resume tourism to Mount Geumgang in the North for nothing.
The unification ministry said it also shares the same perception on the need to resume the operation of the complex.
Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said Wednesday that it would continue reviewing their request with the collaboration of interested parties, including North Korea.
"The government also understands the need for the visit for the protection of their property rights," ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said in a media briefing.
He said, however, the issue needs thorough negotiations with the North and other countries.
President Moon Jae-in is of a similar opinion that the reopening of the complex will be realized rapidly once the North Korean sanctions are lifted, Baik said.