SEOUL, South Korea – The final group of South Koreans working in a shuttered factory park in North Korea is expected to depart Monday after their government ordered them to leave the border city, as Pyongyang issued a new threat to shut down the last symbol of detente.
The group will follow a similar group that left Saturday after stuffing their cars with as much as they could take from their factories in the North Korean city of Kaesong, located just on the other side of the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas.
A total of 125 South Koreans left Saturday, and the last 50, including those who manage the facilities, will leave Monday, the Unification Ministry said. Once the last South Koreans leave, what will become of the jointly run factory park remains unclear.
“It is only a matter of time” before the complex shuts down for good, an unnamed spokesman for North Korea’s General Bureau for Central Guidance said Saturday.
Until earlier this month, 53,000 North Korean workers were managed by 800 South Koreans at more than 120 South Korean-run factories in a special economic zone in Kaesong. The decade-old arrangement provided Kaesong with work and salaries, and the South Koreans with cheap labor.
But as tensions flared between Seoul and Pyongyang over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, joint U.S.-South Korean military drills and other perceived slights, Pyongyang pulled its entire work force out April 9 and banned South Koreans from crossing the border to bring food and supplies.