SEOUL, South Korea —
Members of South Korea's Unification Ministry, which is responsible for relations with the North, were meeting Monday to discuss the South Korean managers' status but had yet to issue a statement.
The Kaesong complex is the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean rapprochement projects. Other cooperation projects such as reunions of families separated by war and tours to a scenic North Korean mountain became stalled amid confrontation between the rival Koreas in recent years.
The complex combines cheap North Korean labor and South Korean know-how and technology. It is the last remaining inter-Korean rapprochement project from previous eras of cooperation.
North Korea previously cut the communications with South Korea that had helped regulate border crossings, and last week barred South Korean workers and cargo from entering North Korea. Operations continued and South Koreans already at Kaesong were allowed to stay, but dwindling personnel and supplies had forced about a dozen of the more than 120 companies operating at Kaesong to close by Sunday.
"The zone is now in the grip of a serious crisis," Kim, the party secretary, said in remarks carried by the Korean Central News Agency. He said it "has been reduced to a theater of confrontation with fellow countrymen and military provocation, quite contrary to its original nature and mission."
"It is a tragedy that the industrial zone which should serve purposes of national reconciliation, unity, peace and reunification has been reduced to a theatre of confrontation between compatriots and war against the North," said Kim, who visited the complex Monday.
Kaesong is a rare source of foreign cash for North Korea. South Korea's Unification Ministry estimates 53,000 North Korean workers in Kaesong received $80 million in salary in 2012, an average of $127 a month.
North Korea objects to portrayals in the South of the zone being crucial to the impoverished country's finances. Kim said North Korea "gets few economic benefits from the zone while the south side largely benefits from it."