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Seoul vows to help firms hurt by Kaesong complex standoff

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(GlobalPost/GlobalPost)

South Korea's government pledged Wednesday to do its best to help companies hurt by North Korea's move to effectively close down a joint-venture industrial park.

This, amid growing cross-border tensions that have reached levels unseen in several decades, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.

Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk told reporters that no North Korean laborers reported to work at the Kaesong Industrial Complex for the second day in a row, after the communist country said it will pull out all of its people in protest of what it calls Seoul's unacceptable provocations against its national dignity.

The announcement was made Monday with the 53,000 workers failing to show up to the complex on the following day.

"The situation is most regrettable, but the North did not give us notification that they have changed their mind," he said.

Kim said that the government will try to help South Korean firms struggling with the shut down at Kaesong.

Representatives of firms with factories at Kaesong held a meeting on Tuesday and called on all sides to engage in dialogue, and expressed a wish to dispatch a delegation to hold talks with the North.

Vehicles laden with goods from the Kaesong Industrial Park wait as they are processed through the inter-Korean transit office in Paju, about 50 kilometres northwest of Seoul on April 10, 2013.

Businessmen representing the 123 companies claimed disruptions at Kaesong are very serious and argued that if conditions do not return to normal soon, many will go bankrupt.

"Seoul respects the opinions and views held by the business community, and will do all it can to offer support," Kim said, although he did not provide details on the extent of assistance.

There are currently 297 South Korean nationals in Kaesong, with 110 having crossed over the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas during the day.

The daily steady outflow comes as no replacement workers, food and manufacturing parts reached the complex since last Wednesday when Pyongyang banned all traffic from the South, although it did not stop people from leaving.

The official also said fax messages sent by the North's Council for National Reconciliation, a North Korean propaganda organization, to South Korean liberal civic and religious groups asking them to rise up and wage an anti-US struggle were inappropriate.

It argued that the United States and South Korean warmongers triggered the current standoff.

"This is something that Pyongyang has always done in the past and it aims to fuel social discord in the South and blame others for its misdeeds," he said, adding tactics won't work because people know which side is responsible for ratcheting up tensions.

People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, which received a fax, said in a statement that it did not agree with the CNR's views on developments taking place on the Korean Peninsula, and stressed the North must keep its promise not to make nuclear weapons. It called for all sides to end measures that can raise tensions and engage in dialogue.

The spokesman for the ministry in charge of dialogue with the North, meanwhile, dismissed the warning issued by North Korea that foreigners should evacuate the country, as nothing more than a ploy to fuel insecurity in the South.

He emphasized that Pyongyang's threats made Tuesday are a kind of psychological warfare and that should not be taken at face value.

"South Korea along with its allies are united in dealing with challenges posed by the North," he said. He said people have expressed trust in the security situation, and there is no reason to overreact.

The official pointed out that the US government has also snubbed the new threat issued by Pyongyang.

North Korea's Asia-Pacific Peace Committee said in a statement monitored in Seoul, that foreign nationals should find out in advance where they can take shelter as well as examine evacuation plans to leave the country.

The committee, which is part of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea that oversees inter-Korean affairs, said the advance notice was given since the North does not want to see foreigners in the South hurt in the case of war.

There are some 1.4 million foreigners in South Korea.

The North has nullified the Armistice Agreement that suspended the Korean War (1950-53) and has repeatedly made threats that it will launch pre-emptive nuclear attacks against South Korea and the United States.

The two allies have played a key role in getting the United Nations to slap sanctions against the North for the launching of a long range rocket in December and the detonation of a nuclear device on Feb 12.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/asianet/130411/seoul-vows-help-firms-hurt-kaesong-complex-standoff