Fletcher in the News

Professor Lee Comments on Reopening of Kaesong Industrial Complex

Sung-Yoon Lee is the Kim Koo-Korea Foundation Professor in Korean Studies and Assistant Professor at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

South Koreans Head Back to Work in Reclusive North

Today the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a subject of protracted attention this spring, was reopened for a trial run after a five-month shutdown – a sign that North Korea may be turning more attention to developing its weak economy.  

South Korean businessmen are assessing factory facilities and determine what maintenance or repairs are needed before regular operations can be resumed. This morning 820 South Korean managers entered the jointly operated industrial park, which is about 10 miles into North Korea.

The jointly operated industrial park was shut in April, a time of exceptionally high inter-Korean tensions and nuclear bluster, when North Korea suddenly refused to allow South Korean businessmen access to their factories, and pulled out its own 53,000 workers. North Korea said its decision to close the complex was motivated by South Korean politicians who made comments that offended the dignity of North Korea...

…Some analysts argue that the Kaesong complex is being used as leverage to secure more aid from the outside world.

“North Korea has now conditioned the South to be grateful for even the smallest things they grant. Just by reopening the complex, they can appear conciliatory,” says Sung-yoon Lee, assistant professor of Korean studies at Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

One of the conditions of the agreement between the North and the South to reopen the industrial park is the “internationalization” of the complex. This would mean bringing the complex’s operations up to international standards and courting foreign investors.

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