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N. Korea threatens to pull out its workers from Kaesong park
SEOUL, April 4 (Yonhap) -- North Korea threatened Thursday to pull out tens of thousands of its workers from the joint inter-Korean industrial complex if South Korea continues to insult Pyongyang's dignity.

   The latest threat comes as the North has banned the entry of South Koreans workers and vehicles into the complex in the North's western border city of Kaesong for a second straight day, though it is allowing South Koreans there to return home.

  


If South Korea keeps "vociferating about the zone, we will take a resolute measure of withdrawing all our personnel from the zone," an unidentified spokesman for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said in comments carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

   He warned that the fate of the shared complex is "on the verge of bankruptcy," according to the English-language dispatch.

   The North also claims the joint industrial park is now only beneficial to South Korean firms and the North gains nothing from it.

   More than 53,000 North Koreans work at 123 South Korean firms operating in the industrial zone to produce clothes, utensils, watches and other labor-intensive goods.

   The complex, which marries South Korean capital and technology with cheap labor from the North, is the only remaining symbol of inter-Korean cooperation amid tensions in recent years. It also serves as a key legitimate cash cow for the impoverished communist country.

   The spokesman also warned that any military operations by South Korea in the complex mean South Korea's "self-destruction," noting Seoul is less than 40 kilometers away from the complex.

   Seoul, the South Korean capital city of more than 10 million people, is within range of North Korea's conventional artillery positioned along the heavily fortified border.

   On Wednesday, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said the military is considering all options, including possible military action, to ensure the safety of the hundreds of South Koreans in the complex in a worst case scenario.

   It marked the first time Seoul's defense chief has publicly mentioned military operations to rescue South Koreans in the complex, which has been kept intact during previous crises on the Korean Peninsula.

   Still, South Korean officials believe chances are slim that Pyongyang will hold South Korean workers hostage.

   More than 800 South Korean workers are currently staying in the park, with about 200 of them scheduled to head to the South on Thursday ahead of the weekend.

   The latest threat came after a series of bellicose rhetoric from the North, including threats to launch nuclear attacks on the U.S. and the South amid escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

   Also Thursday, the Internet-based television unit of Uriminzokkiri, a propaganda Web site run by the North's government, repeated the North's threat to shut down the industrial park if Seoul continues to issue reckless remarks.

   entropy@yna.co.kr
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