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S. Korea vows aid for firms hit by Kaesong exit

02 may 2013, 10:33
0
©AFP
©AFP
South Korea on Thursday pledged about $270 million in financial aid for firms hit by the withdrawal from a joint industrial zone in North Korea that has fallen victim to military tensions, AFP reports.

The Unification Ministry described the 300 billion won of low-interest loans as a "first step" in helping the 123 companies with interests at the Kaesong complex, once a rare symbol of inter-Korean cooperation.

It said the firms could also be eligible for a further 300 billion won of insurance payouts from an inter-Korean cooperation fund once the extent of the lost investment and production is established.

The Kaesong complex -- built 10 kilometres (six miles) north of the tense border in 2004 -- now faces the possibility of permanent closure.

South Korea withdrew most of its remaining workers early on Tuesday but seven remained to settle unresolved issues such as unpaid taxes and wages for North Korean workers, believed to amount to millions of dollars.

The South said Wednesday that the two sides were narrowing their differences over the outstanding issues but progress was slower than expected.

Seoul last week ordered all remaining South Koreans to leave after Pyongyang banned entry by southerners, pulled out all its own 53,000 workers and rejected the South's call for talks on the impasse.

South Korean companies with interests at Kaesong have expressed shock at the sudden withdrawal from the complex, which was also a crucial hard currency source for the impoverished North.

Tensions have soared on the Korean peninsula since December, when the North test launched a long-range rocket. In February, it upped the ante once again by conducting its third nuclear test.

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