[Update: So did they mean it or not? Damn Kim Jong Il never keeps a promise ….]
President Lee can heave a mighty sigh of relief. Not only will the Kaesong Industrial Park be closed after all, but also, Chung Dong-Young, the Hankyoreh, and the usual suspects among Korea’s nationalist left can’t possibly criticize him for it without abandoning all pretense of logic.
Oh, wait ….
In any event, this is all proceeding very much like I’ve been predicting for years now, and better than I’d feared: the South Korean workers at Kaesong are being expelled rather than taken hostage, so far. You will recall that President Lee has been planning his response to a North Korean closure of Kaesong for at least a year now, but don’t ask me how.
Here’s the North Koreans’ statement:
“1. All relations with the puppet authorities will be severed.
“2. There will be neither dialogue nor contact between the authorities during (South Korean President) Lee Myung Bak’s tenure of office.
“3. The work of the Panmunjom Red Cross liaison representatives will be completely suspended.
“4. All communication links between the north and the south will be cut off.
“5. The Consultative Office for North-South Economic Cooperation in the Kaesong Industrial Zone will be frozen and dismantled and all the personnel concerned of the south side will be expelled without delay.
“6. We will start all-out counterattack against the puppet group’s ‘psychological warfare against the north.’
“7. The passage of south Korean ships and airliners through the territorial waters and air of our side will be totally banned.
“8. All the issues arising in the inter-Korean relations will be handled under a wartime law.
“There is no need to show any mercy or patience for such confrontation maniacs, sycophants and traitors and wicked warmongers as the (South Korean President) Lee Myung Bak group.” [Reuters]
The closure of Kaesong is good news for many reasons. First, it ends South Korea’s “material support for a rogue government, its nuclear ambitions, and its human rights atrocities.” Second, it removes a tremendous credibility problem from President Lee’s argument that other nations should isolate North Korea economically. Third, it crushes the dreams of billions of hippies.
Of course the Hankyoreh will find some way to blame President Lee for the North Koreans’ closure of Kaesong. I’m sure they’re writing the editorials as I write this. But what we should remember is that the North Koreans have their own reasons for shutting Kaesong down — the same reasons why they stalled the expansion of Kaesong that Roh Moo Hyun wanted so much. Kaesong workers probably never received any actual wages and depended on their ability to move South Korean consumer goods onto the black market to earn a profit. Kaesong’s fate was sealed once the North Korean generals saw the subversive power of ChocoPies, and there’s nothing any South Korean president could have done to change that.