Oct. 3 (UPI) -- North Korea may have secretly restarted operations at Kaesong, the former jointly operated factory park where South Korean firms employed North Korean laborers to produce consumer products.
Radio Free Asia reported Tuesday that North Korea might have resumed production at apparel factories without consulting the South.
Quoting a source in China who spoke on the condition of anonymity, RFA reported the North Korean authorities are discreetly operating 19 garment factories in the Kaesong Industrial Complex, and are doing so without notifying South Korea.
The report of a return to the assembly lines comes at a time when large numbers of North Korean workers in China may be returning to their country of origin, after Beijing issued tighter visa regulations.
RFA's source said the factories are producing clothes for "North Korean domestic use," but have been restarted largely to fulfill Chinese factory orders.
The source based in China added the restarting of operations at Kaesong might be temporary because of new regulations.
"After the adoption of United Nations Security Council sanctions Resolution 2375, textile exports became the target of embargoes, so it will be difficult to keep up stealth operations at Kaesong garment factories" because of a pending drop in work orders, the source said.
A second source in China told RFA the issue of putting garment factories back to work is a "matter of security for North Korean authorities."
The source added authorities use curtains to hide operations and block indoor lighting from being seen at night.
Factories were restarted more than six months ago, the source said.
Yonhap reported Tuesday China has refused to extend visas for North Korean "guest workers," in addition to ordering all businesses to close down North Korea joint ventures 120 days from Sept. 11, 2017.
The South Korean news agency reported there has been a significant reduction in the North Korea labor force working in factories in the border city of Dandong.
More than 20,000 North Koreans worked in the city prior to sanctions, according to the report.