North Korean labourers did not report for work at the Kaesong industrial zone a day after Pyongyang said it would withdraw all 50,000 of them and suspend operations indefinitely.
After weeks of threats against the US and South Korea, the North seems determined to shut down its last remaining major project with Seoul.
Kim Hyung-suk of the South Korean Unification Ministry which is responsible for relations with Pyongyang said:
“North Korea’s unilateral decision to push ahead with this measure cannot be justified in any way and North Korea will be held responsible for all consequences.”
Amid one of the the worst crises since the 1953 armistice, which the North now says it has torn up, officials of the South Korean companies operating the complex held an emergency meeting in Seoul. They have called for talks to try to reopen the site.
Closing Kaesong will harm the South Korean economy, but the impoverished North will be hit far worse.
Estimate of North Korea’s military power
- Around 1,000 missiles of various types: Rodong-1 (est. reach 1,300 km), Taepodong-1 (2,500 km) successfully tested; Musudan-1 (3,000 km+) never publicly tested; Taepondong-2 (6,700 km+) one failed test
- Its ballistic capacity allows North Korea to equip its missiles with conventional and chemical warheads. It is not believed Pyongyang yet has a miniaturised nuclear warhead that it can attach to these missiles
- The country has at least three nuclear sites and has conducted three nuclear tests (2006, 2009, March 2013). The regime is thought to possess enough plutonium for at least six nuclear bombs (although until miniaturised these would remain undeliverable)
- Chemical weapons: anthrax, mustard gas, sarin, phosgene… (estimated quantity between 2500 and 5000 tons). Its bacteriological weapons program is under development although its stage of advancement remains uncertain
- 13,500 tons of artillery, 70 submarines, 420 warships and 820 warplanes
- Ground troops: an estimated 1.2 million soldiers with another seven million in reserve