- By John HudsonJohn Hudson is a senior reporter at Foreign Policy, where he covers diplomacy and national security issues in Washington. He has reported from several geopolitical hotspots, including Ukraine, Pakistan, Malaysia, China, and Georgia. Prior to joining FP, John covered politics and global affairs for the Atlantic magazine’s news blog, the Atlantic Wire. In 2008, he covered the August war between Russia and Georgia from Tbilisi and the breakaway region of Abkhazia. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, BBC, C-SPAN, Fox News radio, Al Jazeera, and other broadcast outlets. He has been with the magazine since 2013.
North Korea’s move to suspend access to the Kaesong industrial complex, one of the last remaining points of engagement between North and South, has jeopardized more than just diplomatic relations between the two countries — it has also imperiled the 123 companies that conduct operations there.
Since the complex opened in 2004 as part of Seoul’s “Sunshine Policy” toward the North, it has expanded to employ over 50,000 North Koreans and hundreds of South Korean managers. Despite years of cross-border tensions, the complex has been mostly immune to meddling by either side and produces about $2 billion worth of “labor-intensive goods a year” — making it an important source of hard currency for the North.
But now that Pyongyang has closed off access to the complex, the companies there risk losing a lot of business, as one executive told The New York Times:
“If this doesn’t end in a day or two, it will cause us a serious trouble because we have orders to meet,” said Bang Bok-jin, an official at Jaeyoung Solutec Co., which employs 1,000 North Koreans in Kaesong assembling tiny cameras for smart phones and rear-view mirror modules for cars.
So what companies are caught in the mess of North-South brinkmanship? It’s a maze of manufacturers of car parts, leather goods, underwear, electronics, cell phone parts, shoes, and textiles. The BBC pegs the total number of companies at 123. For a complete list of the companies, the latest comprehensive assessment comes from the Congressional Research Service’s 2011 report. We’ve provided the complete list of companies below: