North Korea on Thursday ordered a military takeover of a factory park that had been the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea, calling Seoul’s earlier suspension of operations at the jointly run facility as punishment for the North’s recent rocket launch a “dangerous declaration of war.”
North Korea said it was responding to Seoul’s shutdown order by immediately deporting the hundreds of South Koreans who work at the complex just across the world’s most heavily armed border in the city of Kaesong, pulling out the tens of thousands of North Korean employees and freezing all South Korean assets. The North also said it was shutting down two crucial cross-border communication hotlines.
Well after the North’s expulsion deadline, however, an unknown number of South Koreans remained at Kaesong. One worker at the complex said he thought at least 200 workers could still be there; some local media reported more than 280. A worry in Seoul was whether all South Koreans would be allowed to leave. Some analysts speculated that the North would hold onto some to get all the wages owed North Korean workers.
The North’s moves significantly raised the stakes in a standoff that began with North Korea’s nuclear test last month, followed by a long-range rocket launch on Sunday that outsiders see as a banned test of ballistic missile technology. South Korea responded Thursday by beginning work to suspend operations at the factory park, one of its harshest possible punishment options.
Read more: Mashable