In slap at South, N. Korea suspends work at factory

Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea

A factory complex that is North Korea’s last major economic link with the South was a virtual ghost town today after Pyongyang suspended its operations and recalled all 53,000 of its workers, cutting off jobs and a source of hard currency in its war of words and provocations against Seoul and Washington.

Only a few hundred South Korean managers remain at the Kaesong industrial complex, which has been run with cheap North Korean labor and South Korean capital and know-how for the past decade. The managers have not been forced to leave the facility just north of the Demilitarized Zone.

One manager said today that he and his colleagues are subsisting on ramen but planned to stay and watch over the company’s equipment as long as their food lasted.

Pyongyang said Monday it would recall all 53,000 North Korean workers from the complex and would decide later whether to shut it down for good. The work stoppage at the biggest employer in the North’s third-biggest city shows that Pyongyang is willing to hurt its own shaky economy in order to display its anger with South Korea and the United States.

Pyongyang has unleashed a torrent of threats at Seoul and Washington after U.N. sanctions punishing the North for its third nuclear test Feb. 12.

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