South Korea: So long Kaesong, we’re off to stop the bomb

posted at 7:21 pm on February 11, 2016 by Ed Morrissey

Three years ago, the Kaesong development project got shut down in a war of words between the two countries on the Korean peninsula. That showdown with North Korea got so bad that at one point the Kim regime trapped South Korean managers within the complex. In response to actions by Pyongyang in launching a satellite and testing another nuclear device, Seoul has ordered operations at Kaesong to cease, accusing the Kim regime of using its proceeds to fund its nuclear-weapons development:

As protest actions go, this one has a real sting to it. Pyongyang has been buried in sanctions that limit its access to hard currency, so the Kaesong project offered a rare chance for legitimate cash acquisition. According to the Washington Post, that brought in over a half-billion dollars over the life of the project, and $120 million last year alone. The move will sting the South a bit, too:

The zone, where North Koreans worked in South Korean-owned factories, opened during a period of engagement and and was originally championed as a way to improve the North’s economy — with a long-range goal of minimizing the gap between the countries if they are eventually reunified. The South Korean government and private companies invested about $1 billion in the industrial zone, which had about 124 companies mostly in light manufacturing, such as clothing and electronics. About 54,000 North Koreans were employed there, with the South paying their wages directly to the regime.

But the Unification Ministry statement said the international community needed to come up with a “vigorous response” to a recent nuclear test and rocket launch that “exacts a price for North Korea’s misguided actions, as well as extraordinary measures that compel North Korea to give up its nuclear capabilities and change its ways.” …

“It appears that such funds have not been used to pave the way to peace as the international community had hoped, but rather to upgrade its nuclear weapons and long-range missiles,” the ministry said. As a result, President Park Geun-hye’s government in Seoul said it had “completely shut down” the complex.

Pardon the observation, but this has a whiff of Captain Louis Renault to it. What, pray tell, did Seoul believe Pyongyang would do with the cash — especially since they paid it directly to the regime? This isn’t the first ballistic-missile launch conducted by the DPRK, nor is it the first nuclear test. They reopened Kaesong not long after their citizens had been all but hostaged in the crisis, so it’s not as if anyone could rationally claim to be shocked, shocked at the intentions or actions of the Kim regime.

For its part, North Korea has reacted with all the aplomb and poise one would expect:

North Korea said it was kicking out all South Koreans from the jointly run Kaesong industrial zone on Thursday, calling the South’s move to suspend operations, in retaliation for Sunday’s rocket launch by the North, a “declaration of war”.

The North declared the industrial park, run by the rivals as a symbol of cooperation for more than a decade, a military control zone, the agency that handles its ties with Seoul said, according to the official KCNA news agency. …

“Unpardonable is the puppet group’s act of totally suspending the operation in (Kaesong), finding fault with the DPRK’s H-bomb test and launch of a satellite,” the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said, referring to South Korea.

How long will this fight last? Keep it in this perspective: North Korea desperately needs hard cash, and South Korea needs to keep a close eye on the North. The same needs drove both sides back to the table the last time, although in this case Seoul might want the cash flow to dry up a while longer to make the point stick a little more. But if they do reopen Kaesong, the South cannot offer up much credible outrage as to where all that hard cash goes. It’s either going to make the weapons that Kim Jong-un plans to use for their destruction (and Japan’s and ours, in Kim’s fevered imaginings), or to pleasure Kim and his close cronies. Those are the only two choices, and they’re not mutually exclusive, either.

Note: Apologies to Tom Lehrer for the headline.

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Comments

…someone else has smart power?

JugEarsButtHurt on February 11, 2016 at 7:26 PM

They will be back in a few weeks…

albill on February 11, 2016 at 7:29 PM

After reading about this in the papers tomorrow upon waking after noon, Barack Obama to send an email on his private email server account to John Kerry’s private email server account hosted in an Iranian bathroom:

“John, is there some way to free up $150 billion for North Korea too? Thanks, — Barry”

ShainS on February 11, 2016 at 7:34 PM

Well, South Korea has been “backed up” by the Obama White House and State Department for over seven years now. What’s that song… “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right…”

Marcola on February 11, 2016 at 7:35 PM

Get back to me when China decides to give Kim a good spanking.

Rogue on February 11, 2016 at 7:35 PM

What happens when you murder a https://twitter.com/Breaking911/status/697925566213853184

IDontCair on February 11, 2016 at 7:37 PM

North Korea: Shutdown “an act of war.”

Who cares, morons?

Schadenfreude on February 11, 2016 at 7:37 PM

Why is there still a North Korea? Who dropped the ball?

docflash on February 11, 2016 at 7:38 PM

What happens when you murder a https://twitter.com/Breaking911/status/697925566213853184

IDontCair on February 11, 2016 at 7:37 PM

#BlackCopLivesDontMatter

ShainS on February 11, 2016 at 7:42 PM

…someone else has smart power?

JugEarsButtHurt on February 11, 2016 at 7:26 PM

Ayup.

Dick Richard on February 11, 2016 at 7:43 PM

Why is there still a North Korea? Who dropped the ball?

docflash on February 11, 2016 at 7:38 PM

You can thank Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton for North Korea’s nukes

And soon we’ll be able to thank DogEater for Iran’s nukes …

ShainS on February 11, 2016 at 7:44 PM

Thursdays are “declaration of war” days in NK. Fridays are “creepy children playing instruments while smiling fanatically” day.

Dongemaharu on February 11, 2016 at 7:45 PM

Why is there still a North Korea? Who dropped the ball?

docflash on February 11, 2016 at 7:38 PM

That would be Harry Truman, when he fired Doug MacArthur…

JohnGalt23 on February 11, 2016 at 7:52 PM

Thursdays are “declaration of war” days in NK. Fridays are “creepy children playing instruments while smiling fanatically” day.

Dongemaharu on February 11, 2016 at 7:45 PM

Heh. Which day of the week are the “throw your uncle to a pack of 120 wild dogs” and “kill your army minister with a mortar” events … I forget?

ShainS on February 11, 2016 at 7:52 PM

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Ca8MCQOWcAAorGd.jpg

IDontCair on February 11, 2016 at 7:53 PM

Send Barack to convert them all to Islam.

That’ll work.

turfmann on February 11, 2016 at 7:54 PM

Heh. Which day of the week are the “throw your uncle to a pack of 120 wild dogs” and “kill your army minister with a mortar” events … I forget?

ShainS on February 11, 2016 at 7:52 PM

Tuesday and Wednesdays respectively, right after Potemkin Village Monday.

Dongemaharu on February 11, 2016 at 7:56 PM

China and South Korea keep North Korea going and both countries should be ashamed of themselves.

VorDaj on February 11, 2016 at 7:56 PM

If baby Kim gets a hangnail he considers it a declaration of war.

sadatoni on February 11, 2016 at 7:58 PM

Another great reset.

rbj on February 11, 2016 at 7:58 PM

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Ca7yhvTWwAA2r-L.jpg

IDontCair on February 11, 2016 at 8:01 PM

Why is there still a North Korea? Who dropped the ball?

docflash on February 11, 2016 at 7:38 PM

Truman.

Magicjava on February 11, 2016 at 8:09 PM

Tough talk for a country whose people have, and would again, eat grass to live without foreign aid. (second time’s the charm)

frost_ on February 11, 2016 at 8:12 PM

The world, much less the USA, is in a much worse position under and affirmative action black guy as potus.

Remember that when you seek professional services of any type.

jukin3 on February 11, 2016 at 8:22 PM

Yes, SK knows NK is using those funds for nefarious purposes. NK uses all funds for nefarious purposes.
However SK has very few arrows in their negotiating quiver, and Kaesong is an important and very visible one. SK is posturing for sure, but that’s about all they can do short of real pugilistics. Everyone knows how the dance goes. Until a side is ready to up the ante, this is the only way to make marginal gains.

Thank you for asking on February 11, 2016 at 8:32 PM

Re: reports Kim had his chief of military executed for “corruption”; could this have anything to do with the new NK “satellite” now tumbling out of control?

Lord Whorfin on February 11, 2016 at 8:58 PM

“Unpardonable is the puppet group’s act…”

You have to enjoy Kim il-Loonie’s mastery of florid hyperbole.
We have nothing to compare with it–except, perhaps Congressman Cummings and Al Sharpton.

orangemtl on February 11, 2016 at 9:17 PM

Well comrade Kim can always go back to printing those counterfeit $100 “super notes” that NoKo was famous for. I seen them being handed out in Palestine to the families of martyred Hamas suicide bombers a few years back. So crisp and freshly printed you could almost see Ben Franklin wink.

xstatic on February 11, 2016 at 10:18 PM

Why is this still working?
Dummies can’t even do their screw-ups properly.

LegendHasIt on February 16, 2016 at 11:41 AM