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North Korea Expels South Koreans From Joint Park, Cuts 2 Hotline Ties

Vehicles that left the Kaesong joint industrial complex in North Korea arrive in Paju, South Korea, Thursday.
Chung Sung-Jun
Getty Images
Vehicles that left the Kaesong joint industrial complex in North Korea arrive in Paju, South Korea, Thursday.

Further unraveling a project that's been a sign of cooperation, North Korea has ordered all South Koreans to leave a jointly run industrial complex, after South Korea announced it would suspend work there in retaliation for Pyongyang's recent missile launch and nuclear test.

North Korea was also freezing all assets related to the Kaesong Industrial Complex and cutting two communications hotlines between the neighboring countries.

From Seoul, reporter Haeryun Kang tells our Newscast unit:

"Kaesong is inside North Korea, just six miles north of the border. The industrial park is a joint project between the two Koreas. As of 2015, there were around 55,000 North Koreans working at over 100 South Korean companies. Seoul estimates that more than half a billion dollars flowed into the North since the park opened in 2004."

On Thursday, North Korea gave the 3,000 South Koreans who work at the facility less than a day's notice to leave, setting a deadline of 5:30 p.m. local time, The Korea Herald reports. The order demanded that they take only personal items with them when they leave.

As Yonhap Newsreports, the industrial complex has been a pawn in the two countries' relations before:

"In April 2013, the North shut down the complex for about four months, citing what it called heightened tensions sparked by a military drill between Seoul and Washington. In February of that year, the North conducted its third nuclear test.

"The two Koreas agreed not to shut it down again "under any circumstances" when they decided to reopen it."

For the businesses involved, that closure in 2013 resulted in more than $580 million in losses — a figure that could be eclipsed by the current shutdown, reports the Chosun Ilbo.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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