(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.
DrJenGunter: RT @W7VOA: To clarify, #DPRK banning ENTRY into Kaesong Industrial Zone bt allow S. Koreans inside to return South. That’s happening right now.
Tuesday, April 02, 2013 10:13:25 PM