Though the Koreas seemed to have toned down their newsworthy actions in the past few weeks, South Korea has now withdrawn all but seven of their workers from the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC). The seven who remain are said to be finalizing payment agreements. This decision denotes a serious deterioration in the already strained relations between the North and South. Though the KIC had weathered previous political storms, this withdrawal marks the first time it will be empty since it was opened in 2003.
Located ten miles north of the DMZ, the KIC has been one of the very few success stories of North-South collaboration. Using primarily South Korean investment and North Korean labor, the arrangement benefited the two countries both economically and diplomatically. Currently, there are 123 companies operating in the complex, with industries ranging from textiles to semiconductors. The largest contributor to trade between the two countries, the KIC produced $470 million in goods last year.
Neither side has discussed the long-term future of the KIC yet, though this is seen as a hopeful sign. Both countries stand to lose significantly if the KIC is shut down permanently. North Korea depends on the KIC for much of its hard currency, and the South Korean government would be liable for hundreds of millions of dollars in insurance to the companies that use the complex. The fact that neither side seems eager to renounce the project for good means that a resolution is still yet possible.