Safety warning issued to South citizens in North

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Safety warning issued to South citizens in North

South Korea yesterday urged its citizens staying in North Korea to be extra cautious after a South Korean worker was expelled from a joint industrial complex last week. Some South Koreans working north of the border returned home yesterday.

A Unification Ministry official yesterday confirmed an earlier media report that a South Korean worker was expelled last Friday from the Kaesong Industrial Complex. The official, speaking to reporters on the condition of anonymity, said the worker was questioned about his possession of a booklet containing training materials for North Korean workers in Kaesong.

The official withheld the identity of the South Korean employee, who was interrogated for “several hours” before being asked to leave Kaesong.

“Given the grave situations of late, we’ve contacted South Korean businessmen in the North and told them to take extra care of themselves,” the official said.

Another government official said he had worried that the incident would lead to a protracted detention. Last year, a South Korean worker named Yu Song-jin was detained for more than four months for allegedly criticizing the North Korean regime.

The Kaesong Industrial Complex is home to about 100 South Korean companies that employ more than 40,000 North Koreans.

Also yesterday, 11 archaeologists returned home from North Korea about three weeks ahead of schedule, prematurely ending their excavation of a royal palace from the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). The archaeologists began their work in March.

The Unification Ministry in March pledged to bankroll the project by taking about 280 million won ($246,400) from the state-run inter-Korean cooperation fund. Monday, the ministry asked other government agencies to suspend their budgets for inter-Korean exchanges. Last week, the ministry told private companies to refrain from signing new business deals with North Korea or supplying resources to the North.

The ministry said 64 South Koreans who were collecting sand in North Korea have come home. Sand was once the largest import for Seoul from the North, but the government has suspended sand import until inter-Korean ties improve.

North Korea’s seizure of South Korean properties at Mount Kumgang last month worsened inter-Korean ties. The conclusion of the probe into the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan should have an even larger impact. The investigators are expected to give their results Thursday.

Despite its denials, North Korea is suspected of having hit the vessel with a torpedo. South Korea has been mulling several options in case North Korea is determined to have been behind the sinking.

By Yoo Jee-ho []
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