Disclaimer: The following is a totally unauthoritative personal translation of an article appeared in <Kookmin Ilbo> on April 28th, 2013, sketching South Korean workers’ and North Korean guards’ reaction to South Korean workers’ departure from Gaeseong Industrial Complex. All rights regarding this post stay with the author(s) of the original article or with <Kookmin Ilbo> and this post will be scrapped immediately at their request. In the post, I tried to match the English translation of names of people / institution(s) / position(s) to authentic one(s) as much as possible but, unfortunately, some of them still can be different. Original article of this post (in Korean) can be found in the link at the bottom.
“Let’s hope to see us again. Please take good care of our factory until everything gets normalized.”
Mr. Myeong-jin Kim(45), Overseas President of Myungjin Chemical Inc., left these final words to North Korean guards while leaving Gaeseong Industrial Complex on April 27th. At Gyeongeui Line Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine (CIQ) office in Paju city, Gyeonggi-do province, Mr. Kim’s face was imbued with bewilderment and fatigue. He said that a North Korean guard spoke “I feel disheartened. I wish (Gaeseong Complex) problems would be resolved well” to him on his way return. Mr. Lee, a board member of a clothings company, also said “I was moved to tears when a North Korean guard bode me a farewell ‘Be well and see you again soon’. I don’t know when I will be back to Gaeseong Complex again.”
According to Gaeseong Complex returnees, all North Korean workers withdrew when North Korea declared stoppage on April 3rd and only North Korean guards have been in the complex since. South Korean workers who had stayed there were told to speak only about economy things with those North Korean guards.
Returnees blocked factory gates and suspended electricity and water before departure. Company officials showed outright worrying look on their faces. They said “What will happen to our factory equipments and facilities if the suspension on the complex lingers?” CEOs who came to meet returnees at CIQ talked to each other “It’s really diappointing that our business is about to take some shape”, “Buyers are heard to request damage compensation to us”, “We all go empty”.
Returnees said they did not have any difficulty while staying at Gaeseong Complex. Many companies still have lots of foods like rice and kimchi and some side dishes. They said they cooked their meals at their office-kitchen areas by themselves and took some chilies and lettuces from ‘house’ near factory area. ‘House’ was originally a vegetable garden South Korean companies prepared on empty lot for North Korean workers. They used vegetables left there since all North Korean workers withdrew early this month.
Some returnees stayed their on foods like instant noodle ramyeon. Mr. Kim (53), Korea Electric Power Corporation, said “We had to live on ramyeon since we didn’t have any other things to eat. Fortunately, no one got sick.” A worker of clothings company said “I don’t understand how medical staffs who are supposed to stay till the end actually left the earliest. We all worried if any of us got sick there.”
Returnees said they packed their stuffs at offices during daytime and watched TV and checked ever-changing South Korea-North Korea relations and news on Gaeseong Complex at their lodging places at night.
Their return on April 27th took place in two split times. Since North Korea examined vehicles and other stuffs very rigorously, it took more than two hours longer than first expected. 11 first returnees arrived at around 2:40 PM on 4 different cars. Then, at around 4:20 PM, 115 followed suit on 59 different cars and completed the return. All returning cars were completely packed with products, allowing only drivers’ side visible from outside. Some CEOs, despite government’s withrawal decision, are known to say to his workers in Gaeseong Complex ‘to stay there until the end’ over the phone. Mr. Eul-yeon Jeong (47), CEO of Myungjin Chemical Inc., said “Constitution says country must protect people’s lives and properties. Now is time our country should protect people’s property.” and added “Gaeseong Complex should be noramlized soon.”
Gaeseong Complex Resident Company Association held a press conference at CIQ lobby and demanded four things to government including compensation for their losses and permission to visit North Korea. They are known on April 28th to submit application for a permit to visit North Korea on April 30th and to visit Gaeseong Complex to government.
Reporters Sang-mok Shin, Yoon-kyeong Seo 신상목 서윤경 기자 firstname.lastname@example.org