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570 S. Korean Staff Detained in Biz Complex in NK

Posted March. 10, 2009 03:07,   


North Korea’s cutoff of an inter-Korean military hotline yesterday left some 570 South Korean staff in the Gaesong Industrial Complex detained.

This came as South Korea and the United States began their annual joint military exercises Key Resolve and Foal Eagle.

A spokesman for the (North) Korean People`s Army issued a statement around 3 a.m., saying, “We will put stricter military control on areas in the East and West Seas jointly controlled by the two Koreas that are open, while war exercises to invade us are conducted. We will cut off inter-Korean military communication.”

Pyongyang did not respond to Seoul’s three attempts at contact via military communication in the morning. Last year, North Korea severed the direct inter-Korean hotline at the border village of Panmunjom Nov. 12.

The North’s unilateral decision forced a stop to exchanges at the inter-Korean transit office, which took place six times a day under communications measures guaranteed by the military authorities of both Koreas.

The Unification Ministry in Seoul said 242 South Koreans and 163 vehicles scheduled to come back to the South through the inter-Korean transit office in the afternoon failed to head to the South. In addition, 726 South Koreans and 373 cars were barred from entering the Gaesong Industrial Complex.

Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun said, “Generally, 1,200 to 1,300 South Korean businessmen and workers stay in the complex, but many of them came to the South over the weekend to spend time with their families. As of Monday, 573 people and 380 cars remain in the North.”

“Pyongyang must retract this decision to guarantee the free flow of people to Gaesong and the Mount Geumgang area and communications. The government will take necessary action immediately to guarantee our people’s safety and help business go smoothly.”

The North hit back, saying, “We will immediately respond to a ballistic attack aimed at our satellite for peace purposes with the strongest military means. An attack on our peace-intended satellite will mean war.”

The North’s army also issued a separate “report” on the beginning of the joint military drills, saying, “We sent an order to retaliate if even a spark of fire is seen in our republic’s air, land or sea.”

kyle@donga.com ysh1005@donga.com