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3. Strained Inter-Korean Ties & Normalization of Gaeseong Complex after 133 Days


3. Strained Inter-Korean Ties & Normalization of Gaeseong Complex after 133 Days
South and North Korea failed to improve strained relations this year.

On March 30, North Korea announced it was entering “a state of war” and threatened to shut down the Gaeseong Industrial Complex in the North. Pyongyang said the South Korean government and media damaged and disrespected the North’s dignity. The announcement came three days after the North severed a military hotline it uses to give South Koreans approval to enter and exit the industrial park.

On April third, the North banned South Koreans from entering the inter-Korean complex and only allowed South Koreans already there to return home. Six days later, operations at the joint venture ground to a halt after none of the North Korean employees showed up.

With the safety of South Koreans still in the complex not guaranteed, the two Koreas exchanged heated words and even threatened to take military measures in a worst case scenario.

The South Koreans held their ground at the complex for more than three weeks even after food supplies were cut off from the outside. But they finally left on May third in line with Seoul’s decision to have all South Koreans at the complex return home.

On June sixth, the deadlock over the operation of the industrial park seemed close to an end when North Korea proposed comprehensive talks with the South. But such hopes were dashed when the two Koreas failed to agree on the rank of chief delegates for the dialogue.

The two Koreas did manage to open working-level talks in July but failed to achieve any significant progress after six meetings.

Finally, during their seventh round of working-level talks on August 14, the two Koreas adopted an accord to normalize operations four and a half months after the park shut down.

Still, tensions are fraught on the peninsula over other issues, such as a disagreement on organizing reunions for separated families.

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