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South Korea cuts off power, water into Kaesong zone in North Korea

Friday, February 12, 2016, 09:56 GMT+7

SEOUL -- South Korea has cut off the supply of power and water into the Kaesong industrial zone run jointly with North Korea, it said on Friday, hours after the North kicked out the South's workers and froze the assets of companies operating there.

The suspension of the factory park, operated for more than a decade as a symbol of cooperation, deepened the confrontation between the rivals by all but shutting down the last remaining window of regular interaction for the divided Koreas.

South Korea said on Wednesday that it was suspending the operation of the industrial zone as punishment for the North's rocket launch on Sunday and last month's nuclear test. The North called the move "a declaration of war."

The 280 South Koreans who had remained in Kaesong rushed to vacate the industrial park on Thursday evening, completing the pullout at 11:05 p.m. (1405 GMT), said the South's Unification Ministry, which handles ties with the North.

A few minutes before midnight, the South shut off the supply of electricity into Kaesong that powered the factory zone, the ministry said early on Friday. The action also cuts off water supply, it said.

The United States, Japan and South Korea said Sunday's launch was a ballistic missile test, and like last month's nuclear test, a violation of United Nations resolutions. They are seeking tougher sanctions against the North.

Isolated North Korea regularly dismisses the South as a puppet of the United States and just as regularly accuses both of acts of war against it.

The Kaesong project employed about 55,000 North Koreans, who were given a taste of life in the South, working for the 124 mostly small and medium sized manufacturers that operated there, about 54 km (34 miles) northwest of Seoul.

The average wage for North Korean workers at Kaesong was roughly $160 a month, paid to a state management company.

Except for Kaesong, both countries forbid their citizens from communicating with each other across their heavily armed border.

Despite volatile North-South relations over the years, Kaesong had been shut only once before, for five months in 2013, amid heightened tensions following its third nuclear test. Its future had often seemed uncertain over the past decade.

Reuters

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