S. Korea, US brace for hostage crisis at Gaeseong
By Jung Sung-ki
The militaries of South Korea and the United States have held joint drills to deal with a possible hostage crisis at the inter-Korean economic zone in Gaeseong, North Korea, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense said Friday.
“To prepare for a contingency situation where North Korea shuts down the Gaeseong complex, the South Korean and U.S. militaries conducted drills in case of a hostage crisis there,” the spokesman told reporters. “Ahead of the Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise this year, such drills have been held a few times in the past.”
The drills were simulated command pose exercises without troop deployments, he said.
The UFG exercise 2010 is to be held Aug. 16-26. The exercise, formerly known as Ulchi Focus Lens, is aimed at improving interoperability between South Korean and U.S. forces.
About 56,000 South Korean troops and 10,000 American troops annually take part in the command and control, war fighting exercise.
The security for South Korean workers at the Gaeseong Industrial Complex has become a key task for the South Korean government amid growing tension on the Korean Peninsula.
Earlier this year, North Korea expelled eight South Korean officials from the industrial park, threatening to shut it down should South Korea resume propaganda broadcasts at the border.
The resuming of propaganda broadcasts was planned as a response to the March 26 sinking of a South Korean warship in the West Sea.
About 900 to 1,000 South Koreans stay at the complex on weekdays, and about 300 to 400 on weekends, according to the Ministry of Unification.
The government announced that the figures will be cut by as much as 60 percent, as part of countermeasures to the ship sinking.
Established in 2003, the complex is considered the last symbol of once improving inter-Korean ties. More than 120 South Korean companies employ about 42,000 North Koreans there, the official said.