North Korea has closed access to a joint factory zone with South Korea jeopardising a crucial source of commerce and investment.
The Kaesong industrial zone has major symbolic value for both North and South Korea. It generates cash for the North and acts as beacon for the economic prosperity of the South inside the grim, centrally planned North Korean economy where jobs are scarce.
It is the latest move in a skirmish over the North’s nuclear ambitions that is steadily escalating and comes after Pyongyang said it would restart a mothballed atomic reactor.
North Korea is reportedly allowing hundreds of workers from the South to return home but most have opted to stay put, however with no deliveries coming in, their food supplies could soon run out.
Kim Hyung-suk, South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman said: “North Korea’s decision to ban South Koreans from entering Kaesong industrial zone is causing serious problems to Kaesong’s operation.
“To expedite the investment on North Korea which the North itself hopes for, there has to be a mutual trust between South Korea, North Korea and the international society.”
North Korea’s latest war of words with Seoul ratcheted up when the United Nations imposed fresh sanctions on the country for its nuclear test in February.