x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Withdrawal of South Koreans from North Korean factory delayed

North Korea has delayed the departure of the last South Korean personnel from a joint industrial complex by not immediately giving them permission to return home.

PAJU, South Korea // North Korea delayed the departure of the last South Korean personnel from a joint industrial complex yesterday by not immediately giving them permission to return home.

Officials from South Korea's unification ministry said North Korean officials had been meeting the personnel for nearly four hours, but that the ministry still hoped that all 50 remaining South Koreans could be withdrawn.

Their departure would empty out the complex, located on the North Korean side of the border, for the first time since it opened in 2004 and possibly lead to the permanent closure of the last symbol of inter-Korean cooperation.

Two ministry officials refused to disclose what issues were being discussed at the meeting and said it was unclear when the South Koreans would be able to leave.

Amid high tensions, North Korea suspended operations at Kaesong in early April, withdrawing all of its 53,000 workers and barring South Korean factory managers and lorries with supplies from entering the complex. It was the most significant action taken by North Korea to protest South Korean-US military drills and UN sanctions imposed over a February nuclear test.

South Korea began withdrawing its remaining nationals from Kaesong on Saturday, citing a shortage of food and medicine for them, after North Korea rejected an offer to hold talks on the complex.