Business owners hope inter-Korean Kaesong Complex will soon resume operations

A gateway that leads to the Kaesong Industrial Region is seen near Dorasan station in the Civilian Control area near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Paju, South Korea on September 13, 2017. The station was opened to workers and some tourists briefly in 2007 but was closed in 2008. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI

SEOUL, March 11 (UPI) —┬áSouth Korean business owners are hoping the April summit between Seoul and Pyongyang will lead to the reopening of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, the Asia Business Daily reported.

After Seoul decided to close down the two Koreas’ joint industrial zone in 2016, accusing the North of using workers’ wages to fund its nuclear program, 124 South Korean firms were forced to pack up and leave their offices and factories.

The Kaesong Complex, at its height, hired 55,000 North Korean workers to produce textiles, machinery, electronics and chemicals.

Shin Han Yong, head of the Kaesong Industrial Complex Association, expressed optimism toward the recent progress in cross-border ties, as well as the agreement on holding a summit between the United States and North Korea.

“We welcome the inter-Korean summit,” Shin said. “Of course, the issue of separated family members and military talks should be resolved first but, in terms of economic cooperation, we expect the Kaesong Complex issue to be addressed first. We see hope.”

The association of Kaesong firms submitted a request to the Unification Ministry last month to visit the North for a check-up of their facilities.

The government is expected to give an official response on Thursday, Shin said.

According to the association’s figures, 108 companies saw sales in 2016 drop by an average of 27 percent on-year, after the complex shut down in February.

Twenty-five companies saw sales figures dip by more than 50 percent.

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