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N Koreans skip work at joint industrial zone

South Korean business owners plan to send delegation to Pyongyang with appeal to resume work at border factories.

Last Modified: 09 Apr 2013 05:59
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Thousands of North Korean workers have failed to turn up for work at a joint industrial complex with South Korea, a day after Pyongyang said it would withdraw workers and suspend operations indefinitely.

None of the 53,000 North Korean workers employed at the Kaesong factory turned up for work, South Korean business owners confirmed on Tuesday.     

Al Jazeera's Harry Fawcett, reporting at Paju in the South Korean border with the North, said only 400 South Korean workers are left at the complex with 77 of them due to leave.  

"These business owners want the two governments to talk, they want them to normalise the situation," Fawcett said.

Our correspondent also said the business owners are suggesting to send a delegation to the North, to appeal for the resumption of business operation. 

"Obviously, they still hold out some hope that their investments can be recovered," Fawcett said. "But their seems to be no appetite for talks".

On Monday, the North announed the suspension of  work, amid what has become one of the most serious crises on the Korean peninsula since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

It is the first stoppage since the Kaesong industrial project began shipments in 2004.

The Kaesong complex, which employs the 53,000 North Koreans, is one of the North's few sources of ready cash. A total of 123 South Korean companies generate more than $80m a year in cash in wages at the complex.

'Trouble-making'

Also on Monday, South Korea's defence ministry denied suggestions that a nuclear arms test was imminent in North Korea, saying reported movements around the reclusive country's atomic site were routine, contradicting earlier government comments.

The reversal came amid mounting speculation that North Korea will launch some sort of provocative action in coming days - an arms test or a missile launch - after weeks of bellicose threats against the South and the United States.

The prospect of another test would have boosted tension, already driven up by Pyongyang's fury over the imposition of new US sanctions after its last nuclear test in February.

North Korea's rhetoric has not gone down well with China, the North's sole diplomatic and financial backer. Leaders in Beijing, in scarcely veiled criticism of the North, have in recent days said they would tolerate no "trouble-making" on their border.

North Korea's earlier warnings that the safety of foreign embassy staff could not be guaranteed after April 10 were mostly ignored.

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About 475 South Korean workers remain in Kaesong a week after North Korea banned all South Koreans from entering the complex.

The South's Unification Ministry said 77 South Korean workers were expected to return home on Tuesday.

Thirteen factories have stopped operations in Kaesong due to lack of raw materials, according to the unification ministry.

An executive at a South Korean apparel firm running a factory in Kaesong said late on Monday his employees had told him they would stay on at the factory.

"I don't know what to do, honestly. I can't simply tell my workers to leave or stay," said the executive, who requested not to be named.

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Source:
Al Jazeera And Agencies
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