Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners - News from the Associate Director, Security Studies Program
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Kaesong Closure Poses Challenges for North
I do worry what will become of the workers in Kaesong, especially those that had the most interaction with South Koreans. I do not think we can understand deeply enough the importance of information to and contact with the north Korean people. Again, I hate to beat the dead horse but this is another indication of why we (the ROK/US Alliance) need a comprehensive PSYOP/MISO, influence campaign. North Korea is probably one of the most important PSYOP targets and one where we can achieve the most long term effects.
A South Korean police officer stands guard on an empty road connecting the Kaesong Industrial Complex inside North Korea with the South after all South Koreans returned from the park on May 3.
After the closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex and delivery of millions of dollars in final wage and tax payments to North Korea on Friday, several questions remain about the fate of the plant and the people who worked there.
Setting aside North Korea’s claim that it isn’t worried about the lost income, Pyongyang’s biggest headache is what to do with the 53,000 or so workers who have lost their jobs. The shutdown has effectively tossed one in six people in Kaesong–North Korea’s third-largest city–out of work.
Reassigning that number of people to new jobs presents a major logistical challenge, coupled with the potential risks to the regime of the spread of information about the capitalist system at the facility. Daily NK, a website based in Seoul that specializes in news about North Korea and is partially staffed by defectors, reported Monday that the workers have been sent to a wide range of other workplaces in the adjoining region to Kaesong.
The former Kaesong workers are also being given lectures and special study sessions to tackle the problematic ideas they have been exposed to, according to the report. By spreading the workers over a large area, North Korea likely hopes to dilute the politically toxic message they may bring.
The South Korean companies that operated at the Kaesong plant still have machinery and raw materials there that they were unable to bring out during the evacuation. North Korea could expropriate everything but it won’t be able to restart the plant because the South has stopped almost all of the electricity supply that is used to power the facility. A small amount of electricity and water that is used by the city of Kaesong is still being provided at the North’s request.
Meanwhile, as Seoul and the South Korean companies hold out for a potential return to Kaesong, North Korea is sticking to its demand for an end to “hostile acts and military provocations” from the South in order to reopen the plant.