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South Korea political divide grows over factory shutdown

Seoul's opposition said the Kaesong shutdown is an example of policy failure.
By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |   Feb. 17, 2016 at 11:17 AM
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SEOUL, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- The shutdown of a factory park in North Korea and the debate over the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile defense system is polarizing South Korea's politicians.

The ruling Saenuri Party said criticism is creating an internal "South-South" conflict and backlash, but the opposition Minjoo Party said it is well within its right to censure the government's recent foreign policy and national security choices, local television network MBC reported.

Kim Moo-sung, the ruling party chairman, said the "majority of voices in the opposition sound as if they are siding with and defending North Korea, not much has changed from its past activist ways."

The ruling party has leaned more toward caution in its engagement with the North, while the opposition party, often considered the more progressive of the two, has pressed for policy that is less hostile to Pyongyang.

But ruling party lawmakers are not backing down from supporting a recent Seoul decision to suspend operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, citing previous statements that support the claim Pyongyang was using workers' wages to finance its nuclear weapons and missiles program.

The Minjoo Party's Lee Jong-geol disagreed and said the joint Kaesong project was the minimum safeguard against armed conflict between the two Koreas.

In a previous testimony, a North Korean defector in the South told lawmakers the lion's share of the $80 monthly wage the average Kaesong worker received in compensation went to the regime, and that a worker's take-home pay was less than $5 per month.

Lee said Wednesday the shutdown is an example of policy failure and said Seoul's slogan of a "jackpot unification," or promise of economic gain for both sides, has led to division and financial failure, local network SBS reported.

The opposition party lawmaker said after the April legislative elections he would work toward the reopening of Kaesong and added current Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo should be replaced.

Hong had said he has evidence of North Korea's misuse of Kaesong funds but later backtracked on the specific statistics regarding improper use.

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