Tension escalated on the Korean peninsula after a satellite launch in early February conducted by North Korea. The South Korean government has ordered the shut down of the industrial complex run by both the North and South Korean governments, according to The New York Times. North Korea retaliated by expelling South Korean workers out of its borders.
CNN reported that at 9 a.m Korean Standard Time on Sunday, Feb. 7, North Korea launched its Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite, violating the UN Security Council’s resolutions. The U.S. referred to the launch as “destabilizing and provocative,” while Russia and China had unsuccessfully discouraged North Korea from launching the satellite prior to the launch. Although North Korea claimed that its satellite launch was purely scientific and peaceful, the U.S suspected that it was just a cover for North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile program, which was prohibited by UN resolutions.
According to BBC News, after the launch, the United States, South Korea and Japan called an emergency UN meeting during which more severe sanctions have been proposed by said countries toward North Korea. China and Russia, North Korea’s only allies, wanted a less strict approach. According to BBC News, China was concerned that harsher sanctions would push North Korea toward economic and political instability, which might result in the collapse of the regime, thus, putting more pressure on China’s borders.
After the launch, CNN reported that South Korea commanded the closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex as a retaliation move against North Korea’s provocative actions. North Korea and South Korea joined forces in 2004 to start and run the Kaesong Industrial Complex in an attempt to end a long-standing conflict. Tens of thousands of North Korean workers worked for up to 120 South Korean corporations in this complex.
The South Korean government reasoned that the closure of the complex would cut the funds North Korea needed for its nuclear weapon programs. South Korean officials at the industrial complex claimed that the North Korean workers only receive a small fraction of the local money while the North Korean government takes most wages paid in American dollars.
According to BBC News, the Kaesong Industrial Complex’s goal is to help the North Korean economy by providing a place where South Korean companies can use labor from people living in North Korea. It also encourages companies stay in the two countries instead of sending them to a country with lower wages. However, North Korea appeared to abuse the joint effort by determinedly pursuing its advancement in developing nuclear weapons and rocket launches against the UN ban with the money from the industrial complex. Instead of achieving peace, the Kaesong project added to the “direct challenge to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the international community,” stated the South Korean government.
To retaliate for South Korea’s decision to shut down the complex, North Korean government expelled South Koreans out of the Kaesong industrial complex, froze South Korean corporations’ assets there and seized military control of the area, CNN reported. North Korea also accused South Korea of bringing war closer to the peninsula through the shut down of the industrial complex in the state media.
Editor’s Note: Information from the BBC, CNN and The New York Times was used in this report.