SEOUL. — Ousted South Korean President Park Geun-hye unilaterally ordered the shutdown of the inter-Korean industrial complex last year without any discussion among ministries and deliberation in the cabinet meeting, a panel report showed yesterday.
The policy reform committee for the unification ministry, composed of nine civilian experts, announced a report on its review over the Park government’s policy toward the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Park was impeached earlier this year and taken into custody for a corruption scandal involving her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil. Suspicions were raised that Choi pulled the strings over government affairs, including the DPRK policy, from the shadows.
The Park government abruptly closed down the Kaesong Industrial Complex, the last remaining symbol of the inter-Korean economic cooperation, in February last year after Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test in the previous month.
At the time, the Park government said the shutdown decision was made through discussions in the National Security Council (MSC) meeting of the Blue House, but it proved to be untrue.
The NSC meeting was held two days after Park’s order to shut down the Kaesong factory park to offer procedural legitimacy to the decision ex post facto, according to the panel report.
Park unilaterally gave her verbal order to close down the inter-Korean factory zone in the DPRK’s border town of Kaesong without deliberation in the cabinet meeting, which is required by the country’s constitution.
Before the shutdown, there was no discussion among ministries over the affair as well, and the shutdown seriously influences the inter-Korean relations, the panel said.
Though the unification ministry in charge of inter-Korean affairs advised Park to cautiously decide on the shutdown as the sudden shutdown would cause serious damage, Park’s Blue House said there would be no change in the president’s decision.
The factory zone, launched in 2004, had housed more than 120 South Korean companies, hiring over 54,000 DPRK workers before the shutdown. The emergency committee, comprising heads of the South Korean companies operating factories in Kaesong before the shutdown, said in a statement that the South Korean government should apologize for the abrupt shutdown.
It said the shutdown was conducted in violation of law and the constitution, urging the government to resume the operation of the inter-Korean industrial park. The Park government claimed that wages for DPRK workers in the Kaesong factory park had been used to develop the DPRK’s nuclear program, but the unification ministry had a different view from the claim.
Park’s Blue House laid that claim at the time, while the unification ministry maintained a position that there was no connection detected between the wages DPRK workers received and the country’s nuclear development.
The civilian panel recommended that South Korea’s unification policy should be consistently pursued based on law and people’s consensus regardless of political situations, advising the government to legalize the unification policy for the consistent pursuit.
The panel advised that the unification ministry should lead the inter-Korean talks systematically and that education to let students know about DPRK situations should be changed into education for peace and co-prosperity.
The unification ministry said in a statement Thursday that it accepted the report of the policy reform committee in a humble manner, vowing to make efforts to increase the public’s trust on its unification and DPRK policy through innovation based on examination and reflection. – Xinhua