South Korean workers leave Kaesong

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South Korean workers leave Kaesong

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Their cars piled with belongings, South Korean workers have begun to leave the Kaesong industrial zone jointly run with the North.

They work at a number of factories at the site, which was shut down by North Korea last week amid rising tensions on the divided peninsula.

There were tearful embraces for those being left behind.

“We hope the problem can be resolved smoothly,” said one worker. “All the workers in Kaesong are suffering now. I hope things get better so they don’t have to suffer anymore.”

The Kaesong site is symbolic. Before work was suspended, it was the last remnant of cooperation between the neighbours.

Around 200 South Koreans remain at Kaesong for now. Food and fuel is reported to be running low there.

Kaesong opened in 2004 as part of a so-called sunshine policy of engagement and optimism between the two Koreas, still technically at war after their 1950-53 civil conflict ended in a truce – but not a treaty.

An electricity cable that provides power to the area is reported to be a last lifeline for the South Koreans remaining at the park. A South Korean utility company official said, “Electricity is the last means…If gas is gone, they can make fire from wood but if the electricity is off, things will completely stop.”

North Korea has also turned down a request to allow South Korean companies to deliver food to the area. The North’s official news agency CNA commented, “It is nothing but a crafty ploy to evade the blame for the crisis … and justify the moves for confrontation and war…The puppet group can never evade its responsibility for the present grave situation.”