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North Korea says Kaesong shutdown leading to 'brink of war'

In response to Seoul's shutdown of a jointly operated factory park, Pyongyang has frozen all South Korea assets.
By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |   Feb. 11, 2016 at 9:36 AM
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SEOUL, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- North Korea said Seoul's decision to shut down the Kaesong Industrial Complex was driving the two Koreas to the "brink of war" as Pyongyang expelled the last remaining South Koreans at the jointly operated factory park.

The tough North Korea response to a difficult South Korea decision to close the last inter-Korea channel of exchange with Pyongyang was accompanied by the shutdown of two North-South communications hotlines, The Guardian reported.

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A cross-border highway that has linked North and South since 2004 has also been closed, and the North's military is to retain control of the road, The New York Times reported.

North Korea accused the South of belligerence and said Seoul's action is "a declaration of an end to the last lifeline of the North-South relations" and "driving the situation in the Korean peninsula to the brink of a war."

The decision to suspend operations at the complex, where South Korean manufacturing know-how was used to employ North Korean labor, was not welcomed among South Korean Kaesong entrepreneurs, NK News reported.

North Korea had in retaliation frozen all South Korea assets at the factories, including finished products that expelled South Koreans were not allowed to take home.

"The most precious goal of my life, which I've devoted myself to for the most valuable time of my life, is ruined," said one unidentified South Korean businessman, adding, "I am very shocked and desperate. I am so enraged, it feels like my head is being stoned."

The frozen assets include $852 million of South Korean investments into factories and facilities such as roads. According to Seoul data, more than $515 million worth of textiles, electronic parts and other goods were produced in 2015.

Seoul's Unification Ministry said in a statement issued Thursday the government is to activate a grace period for loan repayment and protect business losses with support from a state-managed emergency management stability fund.

But Kaesong Industrial Complex Business Association Chairman Jeong Ki-seop said the government decision to "unilaterally" shut down Kaesong was "not lawful," and more needs to be done to compensate business losses, South Korean news network YTN reported.

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