Electric cable a lifeline for ROK workers

Updated: 2013-04-18 07:41

(China Daily/Agencies)

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An electricity cable running from the Republic of Korea over the border into the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is one of the last lifelines for more than 200 ROK workers at a joint industrial park that the DPRK has shut down amid fears of war.

About 53,000 people from the DPRK worked at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, just inside the DPRK, where 123 ROK companies have set up factories.

The DPRK suspended work there last week as it stepped up its threats of war over new sanctions imposed after its third nuclear test in February, snuffing out the last remnant of cooperation between the neighbors.

Electric cable a lifeline for ROK workers

Ok Sung-seok (center), vice-president of the Association of Companies at Kaesong Industrial Complex, hugs an employee working at the KIC who was returning to Paju, north of Seoul,on Wednesday. Lim Byung-Sik / Yonhap via Reuters

But more than 200 ROK citizens have stayed on in the complex to look after their operations.

While food and fuel are running low, they depend on electricity brought into Kaesong along a 16 km cable from an ROK border town for their heating and water supply.

An ROK utility company official who used to work in Kaesong said electricity is a necessity.

"If gas is gone, they can make a fire with wood but if the electricity is off, things will completely stop," said the official, who declined to be identified as he is not allowed to speak to the media.

The DPRK issued new war warnings on Wednesday and also turned down a request by officials from ROK companies working in Kaesong to visit the complex to deliver food and check on facilities, the ROK said.

'Crafty ploy'

The DPRK, in a commentary by its KCNA news agency, said the "puppet" ROK government wanted to "torpedo" operations in Kaesong and turn it into a "theater of confrontation" despite its calls to get the complex back to work and for dialogue.

"It is nothing but a crafty ploy to evade the blame for the crisis ... and justify the moves for confrontation and war," KCNA said. "The puppet group can never evade its responsibility for the present grave situation."

A spokesman for the ROK's Unification Ministry, which handles relations with the DPRK, rejected such talk.

"The North's claims are unjust and unacceptable," spokesman Kim Hyung-suk said at a news briefing. "Pyongyang should take responsible measures to alleviate the plight of the workers at Kaesong and normalize operations at the complex as soon as possible."

Kaesong was opened in 2004 as part of a so-called sunshine policy of engagement and optimism between the two neighbors, who are still technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a treaty.

In 2005, the ROK proposed supplying 2 million kilowatts of electricity a year if the DPRK abandoned its nuclear arms program. The DPRK declined the offer and in February conducted its third nuclear test, triggering weeks of tension and threats.