7:51 p.m. CDT, April 2, 2013
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea has delayed the daily opening of its Kaesong industrial zone with South Korea in a move that could represent a sharp escalation of tensions between the two countries and potentially trap hundreds of South Koreans in the North.
The daily entry clearance, agreed by telephone, to the joint complex had been delayed for over an hour early on Wednesday. The North had previously threatened to close the complex as part of a standoff with Washington and Seoul.
“We are waiting for access from the North Korean authorities,” a Unification Ministry official said. The ministry said 861 South Korean workers are in the industrial complex while 179 workers await entry.
The complex is a rare lucrative source of income for the impoverished North since it was established as a form of joint-Korean cooperation in the early 2000s.
The latest move comes after North Korea said on Tuesday it would revive a mothballed nuclear reactor able to produce bomb-grade plutonium in a standoff that has seen Washington shift military resources into South Korea.
Pyongyang has been ramping up its threats since it was hit by international sanctions following its third nuclear test earlier this year.
(Reporting by Christine Kim and Ju-min Park; Editing by David Chance and Dean Yates)
Copyright © 2013, Reuters
Kidnapping for ransom.
(Reuters) - North Korea stepped up pressure on Seoul by delaying access to a joint industrial park in a move that could trap hundreds of South Korean workers on the northern side of the world’s most militarized border.
It was not immediately clear if the move was aimed at closing the Kaesong Industrial zone, which generates $2 billion a year in trade for the impoverished North and $80 million in cash wages that go straight to its government. North Korean delays to accessing the zone are very rare.
The delay came after Pyongyang said it would restart a nuclear reactor that it uses to produce plutonium for its nuclear weapons program and as Washington deployed military resources in South Korea amid growing tensions with the North.
As of 0054 GMT, 861 South Korean workers were in the zone that is home to 123 South Korean firms just inside North Korea. They employ more than 50,000 North Koreans to make low grade household goods.
The complex was established as a form of joint-Korean cooperation in the early 2000s.
“We are waiting for access from the North Korean authorities,” a Unification Ministry official said. The ministry said 179 workers were also awaiting entry at the border.