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(2nd LD) N. Korean workers fail to report to work at Kaesong complex
SEOUL, April 9 (Yonhap) -- North Korean workers failed to show up for work at the inter-Korean industrial complex in the North's border city of Kaesong on Tuesday, bringing their operations to a complete halt and putting the complex's future in limbo.

   A government source at the Ministry of Unification said workers did not report to work as the North announced the day before that it would pull out all of its laborers in protest of South Korean provocations. Pyongyang claimed that Seoul was using Kaesong to find a pretext for igniting war.

   He added that the North had not scheduled bus services used to ferry workers from their homes to the complex located just north of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas.

  


A total of 123 South Korean companies employ 53,000 North Koreans at the industrial part that produces around US$40 million worth of goods every month. South Korean companies pay the workers $87 million per year in salaries.

   Announcing the unilateral withdrawal of its laborers, Pyongyang also said operations at the complex will be suspended temporarily so the North can examine the issue of whether or not to permit future operations at the complex.

   The latest move poses the most serious challenge to the industrial complex that started producing goods in late 2004. The two Koreas had not taken steps to disrupt Kaesong operations even after the sinking of a South Korean warship and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010.

   Seoul, meanwhile, said in a formal statement that it cannot accept the actions taken by the North and warned that Pyongyang must take responsibility for all fallouts. South Korea also expressed deep regret when the communist country said Wednesday that it will not permit South Korean personnel and materials into the complex as it fueled tension along the DMZ.

   With the North moving to close down the industrial park, every effort will be made to ensure the safety of South Koreans workers at Kaesong, Seoul officials said.

   There are usually some 800 South Koreas at the complex, although the number stands at just 475 at present, with 77 expected to return home during the day.

   Some local media reports speculated that South Korea is bracing for all possibilities over the fate of the factory park, including its closure. But presidential spokesman Yoon Chang-jung denied such reports.

   "The government remains unchanged in its position that the Kaesong industrial complex should continue normal operations," Yoon said. "It is not true that the government has been drawing up measures with the shutdown of the Kaesong industrial complex in mind."

   Yoon also said all responsibilities for Kaesong's suspension lie with North Korea.

   "The government will appropriately handle this while urging North Korea to make the right choice," he said.

   yonngong@yna.co.kr
(END)
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