South Korea says it is suspending operations at an industrial complex run in cooperation with North Korea, in retaliation for a recent rocket launch and nuclear test by Pyongyang.
The Kaesong Industrial Complex, situated in North Korea, was opened in 2004 as part of conciliation efforts between the two Koreas.
More than 120 South Korean companies have a presence in the complex, employing tens of thousands of North Koreans providing an important revenue stream to Pyongyang, with 616 billion won ($560 million) flowing into North Korea since it opened, according to a South Korean government statement.
South Korea’s Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo told CNN that the action was being taken “to stop funds from the complex to be used by North Korea for developing nuclear (weapons) and missiles, and prevent our firms from being sacrificed.”
He said authorities in Pyongyang had been informed of the decision, and South Korea had requested their cooperation for the safe return of South Korean nationals working at the site.
A statement from the South Korean government announcing the move said that despite international efforts to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear advancement, “North Korea has declared that it would follow up on its recent provocations with additional nuclear tests and missile launches, thereby not even showing the slightest intent to forgo the development of its nuclear and missile capabilities.”
In light of this, the statement continued, “it is clear that the existing approach will not work in discomfiting North Korea’s nuclear and missile development plans.”
It said 132 billion won ($120 million) had flowed into North Korea through the complex in 2015 alone.
The government had set up a special task force to assist South Korean companies operating at Kaesong to shut down their operations, the statement said.