North Korea’s provocative campaign of threats has continued, with Pyongyang warning it may close down a factory complex it jointly runs with South Korea.
North Korea has spent the past few weeks releasing bellicose threats against South Korea and the US, significantly raising tensions on the Korean peninsula. As well as promising nuclear attacks against South Korea and US military bases in the Pacific and declaring a “state of war” with the South, the North has also scrapped the 1953 armistice (again) between itself and South Korea and cut a military hotline, its last direct means of communication with its southern neighbor.
Despite all the bluster, North Korea has so far allowed Kaesŏng Industrial Park, a factory complex run jointly with the South, to operate normally. The factory (pictured below), located six miles north of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), is a combination of South Korean expertise and cheap North Korean labour. It provides a crucial source of income for the North.
However, a new report by state news agency KCNA suggests Pyongyang has threatened to “shut down the zone without mercy” if the North is not taken seriously. The quote is attributed to a source in the North Korean department that controls Kaesŏng.
As with all statements issued from Pyongyang, commentators are divided on whether this is another North Korean bluff designed to gain diplomatic leverage. Many believe North Korea is attempting to influence the policies of the new government in Seoul and win diplomatic talks with the US that could secure more aid. There is also a belief that the North could be trying to strengthen the military cedentials of its young leader, Kim Jong-un.
Shutting down Kaesŏng would deprive North Korea of a significant source of foreign currency. So far in its campaign of saber-rattling, the North has yet to follow through on a threat that would demonstrably harm its own economic efforts. Closing Kaesŏng would send quite a statement.