North Korea on Wednesday stopped South Korean workers from crossing the border to their jobs in a joint industrial zone a few miles inside the isolated communist state — the latest turn in the ratchet of tension on the divided peninsula.
Pyongyang did not say how long the border would be closed, but it did say it would allow the more than 800 South Korean workers currently in the Kaesong zone to leave, and several did, according to local media reports.
Seoul’s Unification Ministry said many had opted voluntarily to stay in Kaesong to ensure the smooth operation of their companies there, according to Agence France Press. The workers manage dozens of factories and other light industrial enterprises in the zone, which uses North Korean labor. The zone is an important source of hard currency for Pyongyang, which garnishes almost half the workers’ wages, according to CNN.
South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-Jin said Seoul had contingency plans, including possible military action, to ensure the safety of its citizens in Kaesong, AFP reported.
“We should try to prevent the situation from going to the worst,” Mr. Kim added.