North Korea withdraws invitation to UN chief to visit complex
North Korea has withdrawn an invitation to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to visit a joint industrial complex inside the country, which is considered the only major symbol of inter-Korean cooperation.
“Early this morning, the authorities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) informed us, through their diplomatic channels, that they were reversing their decision for me to visit the Kaesong Industrial Complex,” Ban, himself a South Korean, told a forum in Seoul on Wednesday.
“No explanation was given for this last-minute change,” he added.
The UN chief was slated to visit the industrial complex, located some 10 kilometers (six miles) inside North Korea in the border town of Kaesong, on Thursday.
Ban had visited Kaesong in 2006, when he was serving as South Korea’s foreign minister.
The industrial zone accounts for nearly all of the trade between North and South Koreas, which totaled about USD 2.3 billion last year.
Established in 2004, Kaesong hosts about 120 Seoul-owned factories, where 53,000 North Korean workers produce goods from clothes to watches. A large number of South Korean businessmen also work in the complex.
North Korea shut down the industrial zone for five months in 2013 after it pulled out its workers amid a surge in military tensions between the two neighbors.