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SKorea to withdraw workers at factory in NKorea

By Sam Kim

Associated Press

Published: Friday, April 26 2013 6:35 a.m. MDT

The Kaesong complex has operated with South Korean know-how and technology and with cheap labor from North Korea since 2004. It weathered past cycles of hostility between the rivals, including two attacks blamed on North Korea in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans.

"Seoul has executed a high-stakes gambit" by deciding to pull South Korean workers from Kaesong, said Kim Han-jung, a Yonsei University professor who once served as an aide to liberal President Kim Dae-jung, under whom the idea of the park was conceived. "The deadlock over the park is likely to persist for a long time. It will take a lot of political effort to restore it."

Both analysts said that Pyongyang could confiscate South Korean properties in Kaesong in the worst scenario as it did in 2010 at a South Korean-built mountain resort on North Korea's east coast. The cross-border tourism project came to a halt in 2008 after a South Korean tourist was fatally shot by a North Korean guard at the Diamond Mountain resort.

Impoverished North Korea objects to views in South Korea that the Kaesong park is a source of badly needed hard currency. South Korean companies paid salaries to North Korean workers averaging $127 a month, according to South Korea's government. That is less than one-sixteenth of the average salary of South Korean manufacturer workers.

Pyongyang also has complained about alleged South Korean military plans in the event the North held the Kaesong managers hostage.

A South Korean employee at Kaesong said she watched the ministry's briefing on television. She did not know whether she would leave Kaesong because her company's headquarters in the South had not called her yet.

"I've been staying here to protect our factory and our goods," she said when reached by phone, declining to be identified because her company asked her not to speak to the media. She has been in Kaesong since April 2, one day before North Korea blocked entry to South Korean workers, and has been eating rice and noodles, she said. One other colleague is staying with her.

AP writer Youkyung Lee contributed to this report.

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