Kaesong Industrial Region

Coordinates: 37°56′N 126°38′E / 37.933°N 126.633°E / 37.933; 126.633
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kaesong Industrial Region
Special administrative industrial region
Korean transcription(s)
 • Hangul개성공업지구
 • Hanja開城工業地區
 • Revised RomanizationGaeseong Gongeop Jigu
 • McCune–ReischauerKaesŏng Kongŏp Chigu
Short name transcription(s)
 • Hangul개성공단
 • Hanja開城工團
 • Revised RomanizationGaeseonggongdan
 • McCune–ReischauerKaesŏnggongdan
Factories in Kaesong
Factories in Kaesong
Map of North Korea highlighting the region
Map of North Korea highlighting the region
CountryNorth Korea
 • TypeIndustrial Region
 • Total66 km2 (25 sq mi)
Split from Kaesŏng Directly Governed City in 2002.

The Kaesŏng Industrial Region (KIR) or Kaesŏng Industrial Zone (KIZ) is a special administrative industrial region of North Korea (DPRK). It was formed in 2002 from part of the Kaesŏng Directly-Governed City. On 10 February 2016, it was temporarily closed by the South Korean government and all staff recalled by the Park Geun-hye administration,[1] although the former President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, signalled his desire to "reopen and expand" the region in 2017.[2]

Its most notable feature is the Kaesŏng industrial park, which operated from 2004 to 2016 as a collaborative economic development with South Korea (ROK). The park is located ten kilometres (six miles) north of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, an hour's drive from Seoul, with direct road and rail access to South Korea. The park allows South Korean companies to employ cheap labour that is educated, skilled, and fluent in Korean, whilst providing North Korea with an important source of foreign currency.[3]

As of April 2013, 123 South Korean companies were employing approximately 53,000 DPRK workers and 800 ROK staff.[4]

At times of tension between North and South Korea, southern access to the Industrial Park has been restricted.[3] On 3 April 2013, during the 2013 Korean crisis, North Korea blocked access to the region to all South Korean citizens. On 8 April 2013, the North Korean government removed all 53,000 North Korean workers from the Kaesŏng industrial park, which effectively shut down all activities.[4][5] On 15 August 2013, both countries agreed that the industrial park should be reopened.[6]

On 10 February 2016, the South Korean Ministry of Unification announced that the industrial park would be "temporarily" closed down and all staff recalled, partly in protest over continued North Korean provocations, including a satellite launch and a claimed hydrogen bomb test in January 2016.[1] The next day, the North announced it was expelling all South Korean workers and said it will freeze all South Korean assets and equipment at the jointly run factory park. All 280 South Korean workers present at Kaesŏng left hours after the announcement by the North.

Kaesong Industrial Park[edit]

Construction started in June 2003, and in August 2003 North and South Korea ratified four tax and accountancy agreements to support investment. Pilot construction was completed in June 2004, and the industrial park opened in December 2004.[7]

Initial phase[edit]

In the park's initial phase, 15 South Korean companies constructed manufacturing facilities. Three of the companies started operations by March 2005. First phase plans envisaged participation by 250 South Korean companies from 2006, employing 100,000 people by 2007.

The planned final phase[edit]

The park was expected to be complete in 2012, covering 65 km2 and employing 700,000 people. The plan also called for a supporting zone, roughly a third the size of the industrial zone, that was meant for life-quality operations. Specifically, this meant the creation of residential areas, hospitals, shopping centers, and even a proposed theme park to attract tourists.


The Kaesong Industrial Park is run by a South Korean committee that has a 50-year lease that began in 2004. Hyundai Asan, a division of South Korean conglomerate Hyundai, was hired by Pyongyang to develop the land.[8] The firms take advantage of low-cost labor available in the North to compete with China to create low-end goods such as shoes, clothes, and watches.[8]

In 2006, Park Suhk-sam, senior economist at the Bank of Korea, predicted the industrial zone could create 725,000 jobs and generate $500 million in annual wage income for the North Korean economy by 2012. Five years later, another $1.78 billion would be earned from annual corporate taxes levied on South Korean companies participating in the industrial project.[9]

Firms operating within the park[edit]

By the end of the first full year of operation, 11 South Korean firms were operating in the KIR. By 2006, the 15 initial firms had all begun production including JCCOM, Yongin Electronics, TS Precision Machinery, JY Solutec, Magic Micro, Hosan Ace, Romanson, Munchang Co., Daewha Fuel Pump, Taesong Industrial, Bucheon Industrial, Samduk Trading, Shinwon, SJ Tech, and Sonoko Cuisine Ware.[10] In February 2016, shortly before the park was closed for the last time, the number of South Korean firms operating in the park had increased to 124.[11] The different types of manufacturing performed in the park broke down to 71 textile and clothing firms, nine chemical product firms, 23 that dealt in metals and machinery, 13 that produced electronics, and eight firms of other kinds of production.[12][page needed]


The zone faces a number of obstacles. Among the most pressing are U.S. economic sanctions against the North, prohibiting imports of key technologies and goods, such as computers.[8]

Wage and rent agreements[edit]

FamilyMart in the industrial zone. North Koreans are prohibited from using the convenience store, which was set up for the use of South Korean workers. South Korean currency is not accepted.[13]

In May 2009, Pyongyang announced it unilaterally scrapped wage and rent agreements at the industrial park. In June 2009, they also demanded new salaries of $300 a month for its 40,000 workers, compared with the $75 they had been receiving prior.[14]

In September 2009, a visit to North Korea by the Hyundai Group chairwoman led to a resolution to the North's demands, with mild wage increases and no change in land rents.[15]

In 2012, wages were estimated at $160 per month, about one-fifth of the South Korean minimum wage, and about a quarter of typical Chinese wages.[16]

Taxes and revenue[edit]

In 2012, the Ministry of Unification was informed that eight of the current 123 companies had received a tax collection notice. The notices were made by a unilateral decision by North Korea. The eight companies were informed of a notice to pay 170,208,077 ($160,000 US) in taxes; two of the companies had already paid $20,000 in taxes to North Korea.[17]

Unilateral decisions by the Central Special Direct General Bureau (CSDGB) to amend bylaws is a violation of Kaesŏng Industrial District Law, which requires that any revision of the laws be negotiated between the North and the South.

For the first time, in 2011, the companies in the KIR recorded an average operating profit of ₩56 million ($56,241 US), finally operating in the black after years in deficit.[17]

Green Doctors[edit]

Green Doctors, an NGO founded in Busan in January 2004, received official government permission to open a hospital in the region in 2005. Since then, it has provided medical treatment to the workers at Kaesŏng until the closure of the complex. The doctors who work there received no salary.[18]

Cheonan incident[edit]

In May 2010, following the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan and South Korea's response, North Korea severed ties with South Korea and shut its Consultative Office;[19] however, existing activities in the zone maintained production activities,[20] and transport and telephones to South Korea were operating normally.[21]

2013 closure and reopening[edit]

On 3 April 2013, North Korea began to deny South Korean employees access to the Kaesong Industrial region. This came as tensions began escalating rapidly between Seoul and Pyongyang.[22] On 8 April, North Korea recalled all 53,000 North Korean workers from the Kaesong Industrial complex, fully suspending its operations.[4][5] However, 406 South Koreans remained at the complex after its effective closure.[23]

On 17 April, North Korea barred a delegation of 10 South Korean businessmen from delivering food and supplies to the 200 South Korean staff who remained in the industrial zone.[24] On 26 April 2013, South Korea decided to withdraw all remaining staff,[25] and on 4 May, the last seven South Koreans left the Kaesong Industrial Region, which thus was completely shut down.[26]

On 4 July, both countries agreed in principle that the Kaesong Industrial Park should be reopened, as tensions between the two began to cool.[27] Six rounds of talks were held without reaching a concrete agreement, with South Korea's insistence on a provision to prevent North Korea from closing the complex again in the future.[28] During the first week of August, North Korea reiterated that reopening the complex was in both nations' interest.[6] On 13 August South Korea said it would start distributing insurance payments to businesses in the complex, but also said it was open to new wording on the issue of joint control of Kaesŏng. The move, seen as precursor to formally closing the region, sparked a seventh round of talks which South Korea label as "final".[29] An official agreement to reopen the complex was reached and signed on 15 August. The agreement included provisions designed to ensure against a similar shutdown in the future. A joint committee was formed to determine if compensation will be provided for economic losses caused by the shutdown.[6][28]

On 13 September, before the reopening of Kaesŏng Industrial region, the two governments held a subcommittee meeting to iron out additional issues regarding entrance, legal stay, communication, customs and passing.[30] This also discussed the resumption of tourism in the Mount Kumgang Tourist Region.[31]

On 16 September, Kaesŏng was reopened after five months.[32] All of the 123 companies operating in Kaesŏng experienced losses equaling a combined £575 million ($944 million).[33]

2016 closure[edit]

On 10 February 2016, in response to a rocket launch by the DPRK, South Korea announced that it would, for the first time, halt operations in the region, describing the launch as a disguised ballistic missile test. Seoul said all operations at the complex would halt, to stop the North using its investment "to fund its nuclear and missile development". The next day, the North announced it was expelling all South Korean workers and said it would freeze all South Korean assets and equipment at the jointly run factory park. All 280 South Korean workers present at Kaesŏng left hours after the announcement by the North.[34][35]

On Thursday, 11 February, a few minutes before midnight, the South announced it had shut off the supply of electricity and water into Kaesong that supplied the factory zone.[36]

In South Korean domestic politics, there were two opposing viewpoints toward the 2016 closure – while the Saenuri Party argued for the closure, stating that it was one and the only means to end North Korea's provocation, two other parties, The Minjoo Party and the People's Party, objecting to Saenuri, asserted that more communication is needed and that the closure would only escalate tensions in the Korean peninsula. The Saenuri Party, the ruling party at the time, said during the announcement of Kaesŏng Industrial Region's closure, "North Korea conducted the 4th nuclear test and rocket launch regardless of persistent warnings from the South Korean government and the international society. Communication and persuasion, or the 'carrots,' do not work anymore. We need more powerful sanctions on North Korea."[37] Some people agree with the Saenuri Party, arguing that South Korea should have a more threatening and uncompromising attitudes toward North Korea so that it cannot conduct such tests again. On the other hand, The Minjoo Party and People's Party, which were the opposition parties, counter-argued that North Korea has never stopped its provocation even during its Arduous March, or the North Korean famine, emphasizing that a simple closure would never bar North Korea from testing nuclear weapons and launching missiles. They also say that the Kaesŏng Industrial Region was the last hope for peaceful resolution to everlasting tensions between the South and the North, but now that it is closed, South Korean citizens' fear over national defense will intensify.[38]

In December 2017, an expert panel investigating the decision to close the park found that there was no evidence that North Korea had diverted wages to fund its nuclear program. The head of the panel Kim Jong-soo said, "The presidential office inserted the wage-diversion argument as major grounds, yet without concrete information, sufficient evidence and consultations with related agencies, mainly citing defector testimonies that lack objectivity and credibility. This impairs the decision's legitimacy and could constrain our ground over a future restart of the complex, while hampering the companies' rights to protect their assets due to the hasty pullout process."

A group of businesses who suffered losses of 250 billion won ($200 million) due to the closure demanded an apology and said, "Now that the wage-diversion claim has proved groundless, the government must apologize for abusing state power to suspend the complex and make utmost efforts to reopen it."[39]

2018 opening of Inter Korean Liaison Office[edit]

On 14 September 2018, the Inter-Korean Liaison Office located in the region officially opened.[40] The office's purpose was to further communication between the two Koreas.[40]

On 16 June 2020, North Korea destroyed the building via explosion, amidst heightened tensions between the countries.[41]

North Korea blew up the Inter-Korean Liaison Office in June 2020 in response to South Korea not banning or punishing defectors from sending leaflets and flash drives into North Korea. The South Korean government did not take strict measures against North Korea, even though North Korea intentionally bombed the Inter-Korean Liaison Office―a building created to keep peaceful communication between the two countries.[42] However, in December 2020, South Korea's National Assembly passed a law that penalizes South Korean citizens who send anti-North Korean material across the border.[43]

Restoration of water supply[edit]

On 10 October 2018, South Korea resumed supplying water to the region.[44] On 11 October 2018, the local water treatment plant had been restored.[45]


There are two modes of travel to Kaesŏng, road and rail.


Kaesŏng Industrial Region is served by Korean State Railway from Panmun Station through the Pyongbu Line. There is rail access to South Korea (operated by Korail) via the Gyeongui Line but it is not known what restrictions apply. An agreement to re-establish rail freight services was made in November 2007.[46]

The closest station in South Korea is Dorasan Station, from which road access can be taken.


Limited road access is available for workers from South Korea via South Korea National Route 1 to the DMZ and then into Kaesŏng via Asian Highway 1 in the North. The route between the two highways is a paved road and part of the AH1 network. There are no connecting roads en route and a turnaround is available only in the South before entering the North. Access to the road is closed if there are restrictions from checkpoints upon entering the DMZ.


There is no option of air travel available from Kaesŏng to the South. Sohung South Airport is the closest airport to Kaesŏng in the North, but it serves no South Korea-bound flights.

The closest airports in the South are Gimpo International Airport and Incheon International Airport, from which road access can be taken to the industrial region.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "S.Korea temporarily closes Kaesŏng Industrial Complex - NK News - North Korea News". 10 February 2016.
  2. ^ Chang, Jae-soon (8 May 2017). "THAAD deployment could raise cost-sharing questions: CRS report". Yonhap News Agency. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  3. ^ a b "North Korea's resort seizure ends project of hope". BBC. 22 September 2011. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  4. ^ a b c Gale, Alastair. "North Korea Suspends Operations at Kaesŏng Industrial Complex - WSJ.com". Online.wsj.com. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  5. ^ a b "N. Korea Urgers Foreigners to Flee From S. Korea". The Express. 10 April 2013. p. 6.
  6. ^ a b c "Koreas 'reach deal' to re-open Kaesong industrial zone". BBC. 14 August 2013. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  7. ^ N Korean Industrial Complex Made Ready For Seoul's Investment, Northeast Asia Peace and Security Network, 30 June 2004. Retrieved 2008-01-18.
  8. ^ a b c An Oasis of Capitalism, Newsweek, 19 September 2005. Retrieved at the Internet Archive on 19 January 2008
  9. ^ "Bridging the Korean Economic Divide". Business Week. 8 March 2006. Archived from the original on 10 March 2009. Retrieved 19 January 2008.
  10. ^ Sang-hun, Choe (10 February 2016). "South Korea to Shut Joint Factory Park, Kaesŏng, Over Nuclear Test and Rocket". The New York Times.
  11. ^ "What is the Kaesong Industrial Complex?". BBC News. 10 February 2016.
  12. ^ Seliger, Bernhard; Pascha, Werner, eds. (2011). Towards a Northeast Asian security community implications for Korea's growth and economic development. New York, NY: Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. ISBN 978-1441996572.
  13. ^ A One-Hour Commute to Another World - Los Angeles Times. Articles.latimes.com (13 June 2010). Retrieved on 2013-08-14.
  14. ^ N Korea demands millions News24
  15. ^ "N. Korea withdraws demand for steep wage hike at joint park". Yonhap News Agency. 11 September 2009. Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  16. ^ Dexter Roberts (19 January 2012). "North Korea, New Land of Opportunity?". Bloomberg Businessweek. Archived from the original on 22 January 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  17. ^ a b "Companies in Kaesong Industrial Complex Receive Unannounced Tax Notices". The Institute for Far Eastern Studies. 25 October 2012. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
  18. ^ 임, 원철 (21 August 2013). "[만나봅시다] 설립 10돌 재단법인 그린닥터스 정근 이사장". Busan Ilbo. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
  19. ^ Thatcher, Jonathan (25 May 2010). "Text from North Korea statement". Reuters.
  20. ^ "Seoul Decides to Continue Kaesong Project, Humanitarian Aid". The Chosun Ilbo. 25 May 2010. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  21. ^ Kim So Yeol (26 May 2010). "North Korea Responds to Firm South Korean Stance". Daily NK. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
  22. ^ North Korea blocks South workers from Kaesŏng zone BBC News. 3 April 2013. Accessed 3 April 2013
  23. ^ Kim, Christine; Lee, Joyce.North Korea warns foreigners to leave South amid new threats of war Reuters. 9 April 2013. Accessed 11 April 2013
  24. ^ N. Korea blocks S. Korean food delivery to Kaesŏng staff AFP News. 17 April 2013. Accessed 17 April 2013
  25. ^ Alastair Gale and Jeyup S. Kwaak (26 April 2013). "Seoul to Pull Workers out of North Korea". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
  26. ^ "개성공단 사실상 잠정폐쇄". Kyeong Ki News. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
  27. ^ "Kaesong talks: North and South Korea reach agreement". BBC. 7 July 2013. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  28. ^ a b "South and North Korea agree to reopen Kaesong". Radio Australia. AFP. 14 August 2013. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  29. ^ Jasper Kim (15 August 2013). "How the Koreas Got to Yes on Kaesong". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  30. ^ "남북, 개성공단 출입.체류, 3통 문제 추가 논의". Retrieved 25 September 2013.
  31. ^ 김, 민서 (25 September 2013). "北 이산상봉 연기 군부 강경파 탓… 대외 의사결정 '쥐락펴락'". Segye Ilbo. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
  32. ^ K .J. Kwon (16 September 2013). "North and South Korea reopen Kaesong Industrial Complex". CNN. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  33. ^ "South Koreans head back north to reopened Kaesŏng complex". Associated Press. 15 September 2013. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  34. ^ "North Korea 'executes' army chief of staff Ri Yong-gil". BBC News. 10 February 2016. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
  35. ^ "South Korea to Halt Work at Joint Industrial Park With North". NBC News. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
  36. ^ "South Korea, U.S. to discuss missile defense; South cuts power to Kaesŏng park". Reuters. 12 February 2016. Retrieved 12 February 2016.
  37. ^ "[시사NIE] 개성공단 폐쇄 찬반 논쟁" (in Korean). 23 February 2016. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  38. ^ Tokyo, Justin McCurry; agencies (10 February 2016). "Seoul shuts down joint North-South Korea industrial complex". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  39. ^ Shin, Hyonhee (28 December 2017). "South Korea 'humbly accepts' there is no proof border park cash..." Reuters.
  40. ^ a b "Koreas open 1st liaison office for better communication". AP NEWS. 14 September 2018.
  41. ^ "N Korea blows up joint liaison office with South". BBC News. 16 June 2020. Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  42. ^ "North Korea blows up joint liaison office with South in Kaesong". BBC News. 16 June 2020.
  43. ^ "South Korea balloons: Seoul to ban people sending cross-border messages". BBC News. 14 December 2020.
  44. ^ "South Korea resumes supplying water to border town in the North". South China Morning Post. 10 October 2018.
  45. ^ "Water treatment plants in Kaesong Industrial Complex reopened along with joint liaison office". The Hankyoreh.
  46. ^ "Two Koreas agree rail timetable". BBC News. 16 November 2007.

External links[edit]

37°56′N 126°38′E / 37.933°N 126.633°E / 37.933; 126.633