Sunday, May 5, 2013

Life in North Korean Complex: A Glimmer of Hope

I think this excerpt below explains a lot on many different levels.  Although as the title says, there is a glimmer of hope that unification can occur and the people of the north and South can once again live together someday, I think that one of the possible reasons for the closure is that too many north Koreans have become too exposed to external influence.  A form of subversion is being conducted through the contact at Kaesong and the north may no longer be able to tolerate it and therefore have decided that they have to end the experiment.  But we should see the valuable lesson here and the potential for a comprehensive psychological operations/influence campaign that includes people to people engagement.

He recalled one time when North Korean officials grew wide-eyed on hearing that the South Korean presidential election was a real contest in which the leader was chosen by votes, and not behind closed doors. They were even more fascinated to learn that the government cannot just tell the South’s news media what to say, Mr. Kwak said. 
“I told them, it doesn’t work that way in South Korea,” he said 
At the same time, being too open in conversation could cause problems for North Koreans, said the manager of a jewelry factory who asked not to be identified. He said that some of the North Korean workers also appeared to be informers, and if one appeared to grow too friendly with his South Korean supervisor, he would suddenly be transferred the next day to a different part of the factory.
Life in North Korean Complex: A Glimmer of Hope

Woohae Cho for The New York Times
Kwak Kyung-dock, center, who was a manager at the Kaesong complex, on Thursday at a factory in Bucheon, near Seoul.
Published: May 4, 2013

SEOUL, South Korea — When the order came last weekend toevacuate an industrial park in North Korea, Kwak Kyung-dock, a South Korean factory manager, said he was forced to flee with the suit on his back — and his car filled with so many boxes of the plastic machinery parts made at his factory that he had to tie several on the roof.


Woohae Cho for The New York Times

A map showing the Kaesong industrial park in the North.

“I had to leave like a refugee,” he said.

The flight of South Korean managers like Mr. Kwak, crossing the border in cars overburdened with gear from factories they may never see again, has become the enduring image of a standoff that began when the North successfully launched a long-range rocket in December.

The exodus was all the more alarming because for the nine years that North Koreans had worked in South Korean-owned factories at the Kaesong complex, it had seemed reassuring proof that no matter how heated the back-and-forth got, the two nations were unwilling to let things go too far.

Now that all of the managers have returned to South Korea, they are shedding light on the sprawling outpost of capitalism in the impoverished Communist state. Though it sometimes felt like a prison, to many it represented the only tangible hope that the two Koreas might one day be able to find common ground.

“Kaesong was like a mini reunification, the first time in 60 years of division where we ate out of the same rice pot,” said Park Nam-seo, president of Comcase, a toy manufacturer who left Kaesong in March.

Since its creation during a thaw in inter-Korean relations nine years ago, the Kaesong park had grown from a small collection of buildings into a vast complex that became one of the world’s most unusual investment enclaves. With its 123 South Korean-built factories powered with electricity from the South, and surrounded by tall fences guarded by North Korean soldiers, the park was a bright light in the darkness caused by electrical shortages in the North’s failed command economy.

But last month, as tensions rose on the peninsula after North Korea was sanctioned for conducting a nuclear test, North Korea suspended operations at the complex, saying a final decision would depend on South Korea’s attitude. The North withdrew its 54,000 workers, then cut off shipments of food and other supplies from the South.

By Friday, the South had withdrawn all of its citizens, who had worked mainly as managers and overseers at the park. Some of the South Korean managers expressed anger, saying that the park was being held hostage by politics.
(Continued at the link below)

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