Skip to main content

Last remaining South Koreans leave joint industrial complex

By K.J. Kwon and Jason Hanna, CNN
updated 8:56 AM EDT, Fri May 3, 2013
A South Korean soldier stands on a road linked to North Korea at a military checkpoint in Paju on Wednesday, April 3. North Korea has asked for talks to reopen the industrial complex, which is an important symbol of cooperation between the two countries. A South Korean soldier stands on a road linked to North Korea at a military checkpoint in Paju on Wednesday, April 3. North Korea has asked for talks to reopen the industrial complex, which is an important symbol of cooperation between the two countries.
HIDE CAPTION
Kaesong: A North-South bridge
Koreans blocked from the North
South Koreans blocked from the North
South Koreans blocked from the North
South Koreans blocked from the North
South Koreans blocked from the North
South Koreans blocked from the North
South Koreans blocked from the North
South Koreans blocked from the North
South Koreans blocked from the North
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The move marks the first time that no South Koreans are at 9-year-old industrial complex
  • North Korea suspended operations at the joint economic zone last month
  • North and South Koreans had worked at the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the North
  • The complex houses the operations of more than 120 South Korean companies.

(CNN) -- The last seven South Koreans who remained at a manufacturing complex jointly run by North and South Korea left the area Friday -- further crumbling one of the few symbols of inter-Korean cooperation amid high tensions between the nations.

The workers left the Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea and returned to the South, the South Korean Unification Ministry said. This marks the first time in the facility's nine-year history that no South Korean workers are there.

South Korean broadcaster YTN, a CNN affiliate, showed video of the South Koreans' vehicles, with luggage tied on top, re-entering the South.

The move caps a monthlong winding down of operations at the complex, which the North suspended during a frenzy of rhetoric aimed at South Korea and the United States last month. The North's rhetoric intensified after the U.N. Security Council voted in March to slap tougher sanctions on the regime and amid U.S.-South Korean military drills in the region.

The complex, which sits just north of the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two countries, houses the operations of more than 120 South Korean companies.

Waiting for workers to leave Kaesong
S. Koreans barred from N. Korean complex
North Korea pulls workers from complex
Sister baffled by N. Korea punishment

One of the seven returning South Koreans, Hong Yang-ho, chairman of Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee, said his panel is urging North Korea to reopen the complex as soon as possible "so as to minimize damages (to) relevant companies."

"We hope there will be further negotiations through various channels," he said Friday.

South Korea presses North for talks on crisis at joint industrial zone

The North began blocking South Koreans from entering the complex across the heavily fortified border in April. It then pulled out more than 50,000 North Koreans who work in the zone's factories, saying it was temporarily suspending activity there.

The move surprised some observers since Kaesong was considered a key source of hard currency for the Kim Jong Un regime.

Last week, South Korea started withdrawing its remaining citizens from the manufacturing zone jointly operated with the North. The seven South Koreans who returned Friday had remained at Kaesong to tie up loose ends.

South Korea withdraws citizens from joint factory after North snubs talks

It isn't the first time Kaesong has shut down.

In 2009, North Korea temporarily suspended Kaesong Industrial Complex several times, not permitting South Koreans to enter and exit the zone. The suspension also took place during the annual U.S.-South Korean joint military drill. But that time, South Koreans still remained at the complex.

In 2012, the production value of the complex grew to $500 million; five years earlier, it topped $100 million for the first time.

The average wage for North Korean workers in Kaesong Industrial Complex is $134 per month, according to the South Korean Unification Ministry. North Korean authorities take about 45% of their wages for various tax reasons.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:35 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Three Americans detained in North Korea spoke out about their conditions Monday in an exclusive interview with CNN.
updated 4:52 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
The crowd cheers as the stars make their way to the ring for first pro-wrestling bout North Korea has seen in almost 20 years.
updated 9:37 PM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
CNN's Will Ripley makes a rare live report from reclusive North Korea.
updated 10:45 AM EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
CNN's Will Ripley is given a rare look inside North Korea and tours Kim Jong Un's pet project, a waterpark.
updated 3:18 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Several South Korean "comfort woman" attended a Papal mass, but hope the Pope will do more. Erin McLaughlin reports.
updated 10:28 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Pope Francis arrived in Seoul Thursday, marking the first papal visit to the country in 25 years.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
North Korea rejected an invitation to the Pope's Mass in Seoul. CNN's Paula Hancocks reports.
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Wed July 2, 2014
As diplomats discuss a string of unsolved kidnappings of Japanese citizens by North Korea, the families of those abducted anxiously wait.
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
updated 11:13 PM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
North Korea says it plans to prosecute two American tourists that it detained earlier this year, accusing them of "perpetrating hostile acts."
updated 7:38 PM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
North Korea proposed that "all hostile military activities" with South Korea be halted, but it attached conditions that Seoul is likely to reject.
updated 8:23 PM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
North Korean state news is reporting the country test-launched "cutting-edge ultra precision tactical guided missiles."
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
James Franco won't be following Dennis Rodman into North Korea anytime soon.
updated 7:04 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
Don't you hate it when the weatherman gets it wrong? Apparently, so does Kim Jong Un.
updated 7:44 PM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
New signs show Russia and North Korea are developing a closer relationship.
updated 8:12 PM EDT, Wed May 21, 2014
Photographer Eric Lafforgue visited North Korea and shares his inside look at the most isolated country in the world.
updated 9:25 PM EDT, Mon May 12, 2014
Many North Koreans listen to illegal broadcasts on homemade radios, some are convinced to defect.
updated 3:26 PM EDT, Thu May 8, 2014
Jang Jin-Sung, a North Korean defector and former regime insider, speaks with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
ADVERTISEMENT