South Korea sharply reduces power supply to Gaeseong

Shin Hyon-hee in Seoul/The Korea Herald

Seoul (The Korea Herald/ANN) - South Korea has not disconnected the power to Gaeseong but reduced supplies to a "minimum level" in line with the suspension of the joint industrial park, officials said Monday.

The Korea Electric Power Corp. had transmitted 30 to 50 megawatts of electricity to a 100-megawatt plant inside the district via a substation in Paju, Gyeonggi Province.

The state-run utility was forecast to turn off the power and linked water supplies after the last seven South Koreans came home last Friday, effectively vacating the factory zone for the first time since its 2003 launch.

But it has sharply trimmed its supplies to around 3 megawatts a day instead, in an apparent effort to prepare for a future normalization of the complex.

"We're sending the minimum amount (of electricity)," Unification Ministry spokesperson Kim Hyung-suk told a news briefing, citing lighting and other uses.

"The most normal way is to have workers there for maintenance but as you know all KEPCO officials have returned home. Yet I understand that there is no decisive physical obstacle for electricity to flow through."

Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said that the power reduction was applied starting on April 27, a day after the agency decided to pull out all its citizens from the border city as Pyongyang rejected its offer of talks to break the standoff.

"The industrial park has not been in normal operation for about a month. There is no need for a large amount of electricity so we decreased it using the distribution system, not the transmission network," he told a parliamentary session.

A KEPCO official said the current supplies are sufficient to concurrently light up office buildings in the complex and run water facilities nearby, or to power some 3,000 households.

Resenting the mushrooming losses of the factories, Kim once again urged Pyongyang to accept calls for dialogue and solve the dispute.

The North's state media reiterated its demand on Sunday that the South first stop "hostile acts" and military drills with the U.S. before putting Gaeseong back on track.

"The government's position remains unchanged that North Korea should come forward and resolve the Gaeseong problem through dialogue, rather than continuing to make unjust claims," Kim added.

Losses for the factories have been snowballing since Pyongyang barred the entry of South Korean employees and cargo on April 4 and withdrew its 53,000 employees on April 9.

The suspension followed a weeks-long torrent of North Korean military threats since South Korea and the U.S. began military drills and the U.N. levied sanctions last month over a nuclear test.