SEOUL, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Representatives of South Korean companies with investments in North Korea launched a 100-day vigil on Tuesday as they demanded restitution for their losses.
Dozens of business executives who have been involved in North Korea-related enterprises between 1988 and 2010 gathered outside a government building in Seoul dressed in black to symbolize the death of North-South economic cooperation, local newspaper Kyunghyang Shinmun reported.
The group also gathered to observe the ninth anniversary of the October 4 Declaration, a peace accord that called for international dialogue to replace the 1953 Korean War armistice.
A total of 1,146 South Korean businesses have engaged in North Korea-related enterprises, not including the 123 companies that were active in the industrial park in Kaesong before its unexpected shutdown in February.
Representatives of the companies, including firms with investments in the Mount Kumgang tourism project, said they had "not recovered a penny" from the government after they invested millions of dollars in North Korea-related businesses. The group said they were banned from commercial activities as Seoul's relations with Pyongyang deteriorated after trade sanctions were imposed on May 24, 2010.
The sanctions were a retaliatory measure against North Korea for the torpedoing of the South Korean warship Cheonan. Seoul holds Pyongyang responsible for the incident.
On Tuesday the group said they "did not set out to do business related to inter-Korea economic cooperation solely to make money, but to contribute to North-South peace and unification."
The group also said they were being ignored by the government as Seoul reversed its policy of "separating economy and politics" under new administrations. Many entrepreneurs had lost their fortunes and were now "bedridden, ailing from disease," the activists said.
Seoul's unification ministry said the troubles of the group are "very regrettable" and stated the government will look for ways to "minimize their losses," according to Seoul Daily.