Seoul begins closing inter-Korean industrial complex

Seoul, Feb 11 (IANS) South Korea began pulling its nationals out of an inter-Korean industrial complex on Thursday, which is located just across the North Korean border.

South Korea decided to shut down the Kaesong Industrial Complex, the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean co-operation, where a total of 124 South Korean firms are operating, EFE news reported.

“As North Korea has given its consent to Seoul’s plan to remove its people from there, South Koreans staying there are able to smoothly enter and exit the complex,” a Unification Ministry official said.

Seoul’s decision, considered its strongest non-military measure, aims at cutting off the North Korean source of hard currency.

It comes on the same day as the US Senate approved a bill to impose sanctions in response to the North’s launch of a satellite on Sunday, which many countries consider a disguised ballistic missile test.

Committees of the two Koreas in charge of running the industrial complex plan to hold talks over the suspension of the factory zone, including the removal of equipment.

“We plan to retrieve South Korean companies’ equipment and finished products, but there should be discussions over this with North Korea,” a ministry official said.

South Korean companies pay about $100 million in total to North Korean workers for wages every year.

The factories have served as a major foreign currency revenue source for the cash-strapped North, while South Korea has benefited from cheap but skilled North Korean labour

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