Wed | Mar 21, 2018

N. Korea orders military takeover of inter-Korean factories

Published:Friday | February 12, 2016 | 12:00 AM
An unidentified South Korean business man is surrounded by the media after returning from North Korea’s joint Kaesong Industrial Complex near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea, yesterday.
South Korean vehicles returning from North Korea’s joint Kaesong Industrial Complex pass the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, yesterday.


Tensions with North Korea have escalated sharply since the country launched a long-range rocket to put a satellite into orbit on Sunday. In the latest developments:

- North Korea ordered a military takeover of the factory park that had been the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea in a swift, aggressive response to South Korea's suspension of operations at the Kaesong complex. All of the 280 South Korean workers who were at the facility crossed the border last night, hours after the North said it would deport them and seize assets there.

Pyongyang also was shutting down two crucial cross-border communication hotlines.

The factory park, which started operations in 2004, has provided 616 billion won ($560 million) of cash to North Korea, according to Seoul. Last year, 124 South Korean companies hired 54,000 North Korean workers to produce socks, wristwatches and other goods.

- The US Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed legislation that aims to deprive the North of the financing to make miniaturised nuclear warheads and long-range missiles. The legislation also authorises $50 million over the next five years to transmit radio broadcasts into North Korea, purchase communications equipment and support humanitarian assistance. A House bill was overwhelmingly approved last month.

- Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said his country would impose new sanctions. The measures, which require Cabinet and parliamentary action, will include expanded restrictions on travel between the countries and a complete ban on visits by North Korean ships to Japanese ports.

Discussions were continuing at the UN Security Council to impose new sanctions, a White House official said.

- A South Korean official disclosed yesterday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had his military chief executed for corruption and other charges. If true, the execution of Ri Yong Gil, chief of the North Korean military's general staff, would be the latest in a series of killings, purges and dismissals since Kim took power in late 2011. South Korean officials have a spotty record of tracking developments in opaque North Korea.

- North Korea on Sunday launched a long-range rocket in what is widely considered a cover for a banned test of technology for a missile that could strike the US mainland. It was widely condemned, with the South Korean president calling it an "intolerable provocation". The North said the rocket put an Earth observation satellite into orbit. Outside experts say the satellite does not appear to be transmitting signals.

The launch follows North Korea's widely disputed claim last month to have detonated a hydrogen bomb in its fourth nuclear test.