Friday, April 26, 2013

 

South Korea to pull out workers from joint industrial zone


South Korea says it will withdraw all remaining staff from its joint industrial complex with North Korea, after Pyongyang dismissed an offer for talks on the zone's future.

"The government has made the inevitable decision to withdraw all the remaining people for their protection," the South's Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-Jae told reporters.

It is not immediately clear how the decision will be implemented, with questions as to its jurisdiction over the 123 South Korean commercial firms operating at the Kaesong complex.

About 170 South Koreans are in Kaesong, which is just on the North Korean side of the border.

North Korea withdrew its 53,000 workers from the complex this month amid spiralling tension between the two Koreas.

It has prevented South Korean workers and supplies from getting in to the zone since April 3.

'Fraudulent' ultimatum

Earlier North Korea rejected South Korea's ultimatum to start formal talks on re-opening Kaesong.

The North dismissed the "fraudulent" ultimatum, saying that any decisive move on Kaesong would come from its side.

It challenged Seoul to go ahead with any pullout, saying it would take all "humanitarian measures" to ensure the safety of any South Koreans who opted to leave.

Kaesong, which lies 10 kilometres inside North Korea, is the last remaining example of inter-Korean cooperation.

The complex is a crucial hard currency source for the impoverished North, through taxes and revenues and from its cut of worker wages.

It operates as a collaborative economic development zone that hosts South Korean companies attracted by its source of cheap, educated, skilled labour, with turnover in 2012 reported at $469.5 million.

The Korean peninsula has been engulfed in a cycle of escalating tensions, triggered by the North's third nuclear test in February.

Fresh United Nations sanctions have led to a dramatic intensification of North Korea's threats of nuclear strikes against South Korea and the United States.

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