February 12, 2016 09:31
North Korea on Thursday expelled all South Korean staff from the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex and seized South Korean equipment and other assets.
The move came a day after Seoul decided to shut down the complex in retaliation against Pyongyang's nuclear test and missile launch.
South Korean staff were caught off-guard when the North announced the decision and desperately tried to haul as much equipment as possible back to the South. A long caravan of vehicles packed full of cargo heading to the border was reminiscent of a refugee tragedy.
"The South Korean enemy forces will experience for themselves the harsh and painful price they must pay for halting the Kaesong industrial complex," the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said in a statement on Thursday afternoon.
"We decided to freeze all assets belonging to South Korean enterprises and related organizations, including their machinery, raw materials and products. Those who are deported can take nothing but their personal possessions."
All 280 South Korean staff then at the complex returned to South Korea by 10 p.m.
With no response from Pyongyang by Thursday morning to Seoul's announcement that it is shutting the industrial park, the government here told South Korean staff there that they had until Saturday to evacuate. The South Korean businesses had been asking for at least one or two more weeks to move equipment, raw materials and partially finished goods to the South.
The North's sudden announcement caused chaos. One South Korean staffer said, "Our factory is filled with equipment and supplies, and our losses will be even bigger if we have to leave them behind."
He called on the government to negotiate with Pyongyang so cargo trucks and personnel can enter the complex and retrieve company assets.
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