A senior Seoul official said today that North Korea appears to be operating a hydroelectric power plant near a shuttered inter-Korean industrial complex amid speculation that Pyongyang is unilaterally resuming work at the factory park.
North Korea last week indicated that it restarted the operation of the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the face of tightening economic sanctions. Seoul shut down the joint production zone in February 2016 in response to Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests.
Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon told lawmakers that there are no specific signs it’s been reopened, though some bus movement and lit street lamps have been spotted since March or April.
“It has been recently found that North Korea activated a small hydroelectric station,” Cho said when asked whether electricity has been supplied to the industrial park during a parliamentary audit session.
Seoul’s Unification Ministry said that North Korea should not resume operations at the complex without permission as the factories and machinery belong to South Korean firms.
It said that if North Korea resumes operations, it would violate inter-Korean agreements banning the random naturalization of Seoul firms’ assets. It could also breach the latest U.N. sanctions barring the North’s textile exports if the country seeks outbound shipments.
The factory zone, launched in 2004, had accommodated 124 South Korean firms which employed more than 54,000 North Korean workers to produce labor-intensive goods, such as clothes and utensils.
In retaliation against Seoul’s closure of the complex last year, North Korea kicked out all remaining South Koreans and announced that it would freeze their assets and liquidate them.