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Here’s a look inside the world’s most diplomatically sensitive businesses

Kaesong Factory
AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon
The only place where North Koreans work alongside South Koreans.
By Roberto A. Ferdman, Kevin J. Delaney
AsiaPublished Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

One of the (many) oddities of the relationship between North Korea and South Korea is the Kaesong industrial zone jointly operated by the two countries—and, until recently, its continued operation even amid escalating hostilities between the two nations.

North Korea shuttered the cooperative zone in April amid one of its periodic diplomatic tantrums, kicking out the 120-some South Korean businesses operating there and holding seven managers hostage until bills had been settled. But Kaesong, which once employed over 50,000 workers, has been a rare, vital source of hard currency to fund the North Korean regime. (Among other things, the North Koreans’ wages of about $57 per worker per month, totaling about $80 million a year, are paid directly to their government.)

Now, following a round of talks between the two countries, it’s scheduled to open again on Wednesday. The reopening could be rocky: Some of the South Korean managers say the factory equipment rusted during the rainy season, and is effectively useless at this point.

Here’s a look at some of the drama around Kaesong—and what it’s like inside.

Kitchenware company Living Art was the first South Korean firm to start production in Kaesong. Seen here in a 2004 photo are North Koreans working in the factory.
Reuters/Lee Jae Won
There’s also a garlic processing factory. (Pictured here in 2007.)
AP Photo/Jean H. Lee
A wire manufacturer. (Pictured earlier this year.)
AP Photo/Jean H. Lee
And a Western-style suit factory. (Seen earlier this year.)
Reuters/Lee Jae Won
Which also makes dresses.
Reuters/Ho New
There are roughly 120 South Korean factories in the complex.
Reuters/Lee Jae Won
When South Korean workers were forced to leave their factories in April, many took as much as possible along with them.
AP Photo
Armed guards have paroled the boundaries of the Kaesong complex since it was closed.
Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji
South Koreans have since rallied for North Korea to re-start operations.
Working-level talks between the two Koreas resulted in an agreement to reopen the park on Wednesday.

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