South Korean officials who usually work in North Korea have returned home as
ties between the two cold war rivals worsen. Both sides are getting ready for a
complete border closure the North has promised to enforce next week. VOA's Kurt
Achin has more from Seoul.
A South Korean freight train made its final
scheduled crossing into North Korea Friday. The daily rail crossings were seen
to have such symbolic value that the train often made its journey north
completely empty of cargo.
The train conductor, Shin Jang-cheol says even
though the train service is halted for now, he hopes it can resume again in the
The train route and a tour program to the North Korean city of
Kaesong are the latest inter-Korean projects to go into a deep freeze as ties
between the two sides worsen. A joint tourism zone was suspended in July after
North Korean soldiers shot a visiting South Korean housewife to death, then
refused to cooperate in an investigation.
Six South Korean government
officials were among those who crossed into the South Friday after leaving their
jobs at a joint industrial park in Kaesong. South Korean Unification Ministry
Spokesman Kim Ho-nyeon says hundreds more South Koreans will also
He says out of more than 4,000 South Koreans who have visas from
the North to stay in the Kaesong complex, about 1,500 have gotten permission to
stay after December 1.
December 1 is Monday - when North Korea has vowed
to completely restrict crossings of its southern border. Pyongyang is angry at
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, whom North Korean media frequently
describe as a "traitor" for his conservative policies.
When he took
office in January, President Lee ended ten years of efforts by previous
governments to seek friendship with the North in exchange for massive aid and
investment. North Korea accuses the Lee administration of dragging its feet on
implementing agreements made by his two predecessors which promise billions of
dollars in South Korean backing for projects in the North.
The North has
also expressed anger at South Korea's failure to prevent the launch of
balloon-carried leaflets into the North by private groups. The leaflets harshly
criticize North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, and contain sensitive information
about his apparent recovery from a stroke.
Former President Kim Dae-jung,
architect of the so-called "sunshine policy" of open-ended assistance to the
North, accused President Lee this week of "intentionally harming" North-South
Yoon Sang-hyun, a legislator with the South Korean president's
ruling party, says Mr. Lee is right to make South Korean aid consistent with
North Korea's cooperation on iss ues like nuclear disarmament.
the main crisis here is the North Korean government itself. It's not South
Korea's policies that need to change, he says, it is North Korea that needs to
Many analysts say major North-South projects like the Kaesong
zone are now in danger of coming to a complete end. Even if Kaesong continues,
economists say investors are probably much more fearful about committing
resources and staff to the project.