North Korea moves to cut remaining ties with South
Angered by charges that it torpedoed the Cheonan Navy ship, North Korea appears ready to shut down the Kaesong Economic Complex, the last point of contact between the two Koreas. Kaesong hosts some 100 South Korean factories and more than 40,000 North Korean workers.
Seoul, South Korea
North Korea appears on the verge of shutting down the last remaining point of contact between the two Koreas – the Kaesong Economic Complex, long seen as a beacon of hope for North Korea’s dilapidated economy and a symbol of the potential for North-South cooperation.Skip to next paragraph
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That’s the implication of a report late Tuesday by Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency that the North is expelling all South Koreans from the complex, where more than 100 South Korean factories turn out light industrial products. The South Koreans are technicians and managers responsible for directing more than 40,000 North Korean workers on assembly lines.
The North Korean report said relations with South Korea would be “severed” and “all communications links between the north and south will be cut off,” ending the dream of North-South cooperation at Kaesong.
North Korea accused the South of waging a “smear campaign” – a reference to South Korea’s charge that a North Korean submarine fired the torpedo that sunk the Cheonan, a Korean Navy corvette, in March, killing 46 sailors. South Korea is calling for strengthened UN sanctions against North Korea based on a lengthy investigation by a team that included 10 foreign experts.
It was not clear, though, if the ban on all communications will extend to the truce village of Panmunjom, adjacent to Kaesong, where North and South Korean soldiers face each other across the North-South line in a joint security area that’s become a destination for tourists from both sides.
A small number of US troops also mans the southern side of the line at Panmunjom, where officers meet occasionally under terms of the truce that ended the Korean War in 1953 to talk over pressing problems and are able to get in touch on a special phone line.
Suspension of operations at Kaesong would mark a final blow to the economic gains of years of reconciliation on the Korean peninsula. North Korea has been earning about $50 million a year from the complex, mostly from salaries paid by the South Korean companies as wages to the workers, who South Korean officials privately acknowledge never actually get the money.