Seoul, South Korea – A fire broke out Thursday at a now closed Inter-Korean Industrial Park in North Korea, but it was not immediately clear if any South Korean property was damaged, officials said.
The fire was detected from a South Korean frontline observation post around 2 p.m. and appeared to have been extinguished about an hour later, the Unification Ministry in Seoul said.
The ministry, which oversees relations with rival North Korea, said it would try to confirm any damage to the Kaesong city compound. North Korean state media did not immediately report the fire.
The industrial park, established in 2004 during a time of warming ties between the divided Koreas, was once seen as a test of reunification as it combined South Korean technology and craftsmanship with a North Korean workforce cheap. The operation of the complex was suspended in 2016 amid tensions over North Korea’s weapons program, leaving South Korean equipment and other assets abandoned there.
South Korean businessmen who ran businesses in the park have repeatedly expressed a desire to visit the complex due to concerns about the condition of machinery and manufacturing materials left there. A planned visit approved by the South Korean government in 2019 fell through after North Korea ignored the request.
In 2020, North Korea threatened to dismantle the entire factory complex, then blew up an empty South Korean-built liaison office there.
South Korea has accused North Korea of destroying South Korean-owned facilities at another jointly-operated dormant project – a resort in North Korea’s scenic Diamond Mountain where they held tours together .
South Korean officials said they had not detected any signs that North Korea was demolishing South Korean properties in the Kaesong Industrial Park. South Korean media reported that authorities believe the Kaesong fire was not started deliberately.
Earlier on Thursday, Kwon Young-se, who was appointed unification minister under South Korea’s new conservative government, said the South should take a tougher stance toward North Korea over damage to southern properties. -Koreans from Kaesong Park and Diamond Mountain Station.