South Korea Friday said it was pulling out all its 175 remaining factory managers from a jointly-operated industrial park in North Korea,escalating a standoff over the only remaining symbol of economic co-operation between the two countries.
The decision came hours after North Korea rejected Souths proposal for talks on the future of Kaesong Industrial Complex,and said it was free to withdraw its people from there.
To protect our citizens,we have made an inevitable decision to bring all of them home, Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae,South Koreas point man on the North,said in a nationally televised statement.
So far,neither North nor South Korea has said publicly it wants to shut the complex permanently. But the countries tit-for-tat moves deepened doubts that the factory complex,located in the North Korean border town of Kaesong and once billed as an experiment for Korean reunification,would resume operations anytime soon.
Its operations had already been suspended since April 9,when North Korea removed all of its 53,000 workers,citing the danger of war that it said was caused by joint South Korean-United States military drills. It also blocked South Korean managers or supplies from entering the economic zone.
But 175 South Korean managers remained in Kaesong,hoping for its reopening.
Seouls decision to bring them home reflected President Park Geun-hyes determination not to succumb to what she called North Koreas tactic of using provocations and pressure to extract concessions. On Friday,she told her cabinet ministers that she had no intention of waiting forever for North Korea to change its mind over the factory complex. NYT