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Joint Industrial Estate Remains Open Despite N. Korea Threat

Mar. 31, 2013 - 11:34AM   |  
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SEOUL — An inter-Korea joint industrial complex, which lies inside North Korea, was operating normally on Sunday despite the North’s threat to shut it down, a Seoul official said.

The complex in the city of Kaesong, just north of the border, was running as usual after Pyongyang warned of a potential closure as it declared a “state of war” with the South on Saturday, said Seoul’s Unification Ministry.

“There has been no problem so far in operations of the Kaesong complex,” a spokesman of the ministry handling cross-border affairs told AFP without elaborating.

The Kaesong Industrial Complex, which lies 10 kilometers (six miles) inside North Korea, was built by the South in 2004 as a symbol of cross-border cooperation.

Around 53,000 North Koreans work at plants for 120 South Korean firms at the complex, which serves as a crucial source of hard currency for the impoverished communist state.

Tensions are ratcheted high between North and South Korea and on Saturday Pyongyang warned Seoul and Washington that any provocation would swiftly escalate into an all-out nuclear conflict.

It was the latest in a recent string of threats from Pyongyang, which have been met by tough warnings from Seoul and Washington, fuelling international concern that the situation might spiral out of control.

The Kaesong complex has remained largely immune to strains on cross-border relations and has continued to produce goods from shoes to watches, despite tension heightened by the North’s recent nuclear test and long-range rocket launch.

But there had been concerns that operations at the complex would be affected by Pyongyang’s move last week to sever the military hotline used to monitor movement in and out of the zone.

The line was used daily to provide the North with the names of those seeking entry to Kaesong, guaranteeing their safety as they crossed one of the world’s most heavily militarized borders.

The two Koreas have technically remained at war since the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty. The North declared the armistice void earlier in March.

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