N. Korea asks China to hire idled Kaesong workers

May 09, 2013

By KOICHIRO ISHIDA/ Correspondent

SHENYANG, China--North Korean authorities asked their Chinese counterparts to hire North Korean workers withdrawn from the symbolic inter-Korean joint venture in the Kaesong industrial complex, according to a local government source here.

It is believed that cash-strapped Pyongyang sought to maintain a valuable source of hard currency by switching partners to China, which, as it turned out, declined the proposal, according to the source.

North Korean authorities, angered by joint military drills conducted by the United States and South Korea, declared in early April the withdrawal of all workers from the industrial park on their side of the demilitarized zone, where more than 53,000 North Koreans were working. The Kaesong complex was left idled after all South Koreans in the joint venture also withdrew.

Officials said at the time that the North Korean workers would return to their homes in Pyongyang, Sinuiju and other parts of the country.

But according to the local government source in China's Liaoning province, which borders North Korea, a senior local government official from North Korea visited Dandong, Liaoning province, in mid-April and requested more North Koreans be allowed to work in China.

The source quoted the North Korean official as explaining that new employers were needed for the skilled workers withdrawn from Kaesong.

The request suggests that North Korean authorities were looking for a new source of hard currency to replace Kaesong, which they had decided will remain shuttered for an extended period.

China's rejection of North Korea's proposal may have stemmed from fears of a backlash from the international community. Beijing has pledged to comply with a new U.N. Security Council resolution to strengthen sanctions against North Korea, which was adopted following Pyongyang's third nuclear test in February.

By KOICHIRO ISHIDA/ Correspondent
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South Korean vehicles laden with goods return from the North Korean city of Kaesong on April 17. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

South Korean vehicles laden with goods return from the North Korean city of Kaesong on April 17. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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  • South Korean vehicles laden with goods return from the North Korean city of Kaesong on April 17. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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