Around 125 South Korean workers have left a jointly-managed industrial complex in North Korea after Pyongyang rejected calls for talks to re-open the facility.

The workers, who left on Saturday, were among the 175 South Koreans who had remained at the Kaesong industrial complex after operations were suspended on April 9.

A total of 800 South Koreans normally worked there prior to the shutdown. 

A Unification Ministry official said the 125 South Korean employees and one Chinese were able to leave after the North assured their safe passage across the border.

The remaining 50 were scheduled to return to the South by Monday, Yonhap news agency reported.

Operations at 123 South Korean factories came to a halt when Pyongyang pulled out all of its 53,000 workers against the backdrop of rising tension over Pyongyang's nuclear programme and US-South Korean military exercises.

The North blocked South Korean personnel and supplies from entering the complex, but allowed people to leave. 

'Mounting difficulties'

Pyongyang had rejected appeals for South Korean businessmen to send food and supplies to the workers and check their factories in Kaesong.

On Friday, Seoul decided to withdraw all remaining workers to protect them "amid mounting difficulties they are facing at the complex," Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl Jae said.

The Kaesong complex began operations in 2004 and has become a source of hard currency for the impoverished North.

South Korean businessmen are now demanding financial compensation.

"Companies operating in Kaesong have been embarrassed by the government's decision to pull out all workers and are wary of a possible shutdown of the complex," said Hae Jae Gwon, head of the Kaesong Industrial Companies Association. 

Tensions have been high since North Korea carried out its third nuclear test on February 12, triggering condemnation from the international community and resulting in more sanctions against the reclusive state.

Source: Agencies