By Ju-min Park
SEOUL, March 10 (Reuters) – Park Yong-man says his hopes of ever restarting his clothing factory at the inter-Korean economic complex in Kaesong, North Korea, appear “beyond impossible” with the election of conservative Yoon Suk-yeol as South Korea’s president.
The project, which housed some 124 South Korean companies and employed 55,000 North Korean workers, was shuttered in early 2016 following a rocket launch and nuclear test by the North.
Resuming it is among the many efforts at engagement that appear on hold for the foreseeable future amid Pyongyang’s increasingly confrontational moves and Yoon’s vow to take a harder line on the North.
“I wish there is a miracle. But I am afraid under the Yoon government, South-North Korea relations will only get worse, even to a level where there will be provocative acts and exchanges,” said Park. His Rok-Sec Garments now makes a sixth of what it used to in Kaesong, he said, without providing exact amounts.
Yoon’s victory may be a nail in the coffin for outgoing President Moon Jae-in’s policy of engagement with North Korea, which failed to make meaningful headway throughout his term.
Yoon, a former prosecutor with no foreign policy background, has pledged a muscular military strategy and said pre-emptive strikes may be the only ways to counter an imminent launch by North Korea’s new hypersonic missiles.