Institue for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
The Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) was reactivated on September 16, 2013 after a five-month shutdown due to North Korea’s withdrawal of North Korean workers from the complex. One year has passed without interruption of operations. However, while most of production activities were resumed to pre-shutdown levels, previously discussed agreements between the two Koreas are not meeting expectations in terms of transportation, customs, communications, security for personnel and vehicles, upgrades to meet international standards, and normalization for development of the KIC.
The tentative suspension of the KIC lasted from April 8 to September 16, 2013. During this period, all aspects of both production and export were frozen completely. After restarting operations, gradual progress was made, with production in October 2013 down only 32.7 percent compared to March of the same year (pre-suspension), totaling approximately 30.8 million USD. By May 2014, average monthly production totaled nearly 42.8 million USD, showing a strong recovery to a total of 93.5 percent of pre-suspension production capacity.
After resuming operations, companies at the KIC experienced problems such as loss of capital, cancelled contracts by buyers, order quantity reduction, and other problems which caused uncertainty about the future of the complex. In spite of this, companies at the complex were quickly able to recover due to their own efforts and the support of various related organizations.
However, since the reactivation, not much progress has been made toward achieving the goal of “developmental normalization” of the KIC. This goal is aimed at expanding and improving the complex through cooperation between the two Koreas. Agreements have been made between the North and South to work together to make the complex better than it was before the shutdown by solving several issues related to safe entry and stay of personnel; transportation, customs, and communication in the KIC; and internationalization of the complex.
For some time after restarting operations, the agreements between the North and South were actively being pursued, and the process of developmental normalization progressed steadily. In January 2014, construction of the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) facilities were completed alongside the implementation of a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) electronic entrance system, and in the following month, progress was made on agreements related to the provision of an Internet service at the KIC.
Furthermore, the joint North-South Commercial Arbitration Committee was created. In March 2014, the committee had its first meeting, which dealt with commercial disputes arising at the complex. Recently, over twenty companies from the United States, Germany, China, Russia and other countries have made inquiries to the South Korean government with regard to investing in the KIC. The Foreign Investor Support Center was also opened to attract and manage investments from abroad.
However, due to the joint ROK-US military exercises, inter-Korean relations have become strained. North Korea also has taken a passive stance toward the Kaesong agreements, leading to a situation where no real progress has since been made. South Korea has been calling out for a subcommittee in order to enforce the RFID card system, continue discussion on the introduction of Internet service, and address the problems of passage, communication and transport at the complex. Seoul has been demanding continuously for North Korean authorities to cooperate on these issues.