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The incidents at Kaesong reflect a broader surge in tensions between North Korea and nations in the region, including the United States, which has troops based in South Korea and Japan.

The North went ahead Sunday with its rocket launch, defying international pressure. The North also has imprisoned two American journalists, claiming they illegally crossed the North Korean-Chinese border.

The Kaesong factories employ about 38,000 North Koreans. Hyundai Asan also funded a tourism facility elsewhere along the border that was shuttered in July after North Korean guards shot and killed a South Korean tourist.

“Our mission is survival until the situation of the two Koreas is getting better,” said Jang Hwan-bin, senior vice president at Hyundai Asan. “The goal is to narrow the economic gap within the South and North, but that goal should be proceeded by the government. We are a business enterprise, so we have to make a profit.”

Kim Yong, a North Korean defector who settled in the South decades ago, said he doubts whether Kaesong will contribute much to economic development in North Korea.

“Symbolically, I think the Kaesong industrial complex has its own meanings,” he said.

Oh Joon, a deputy minister at the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said China will play a big role in the future of the divided peninsula.

“It will depend a lot on China's perception of a unified Korea,” Mr. Oh said. “If they can assume a unified Korea will not be hostile to China, then they can live with that. We are trying to make sure to our neighboring countries that a reunified country would be in the interest of all our neighbors.”