Seoul to stop work at N. Korea industrial park

South Korea said Wednesday it would stop work at an industrial complex it jointly runs with North Korea in response to the recent rocket launch and nuclear weapons test by Pyongyang.

An undated file picture released on Dec. 6 2011 shows a general view of the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the North Korean border town of Kaesong.

The Kaesong Industrial Complex, which is 31 miles northwest of Seoul, just over the border, is the last remaining symbol of reconciliation between Pyongyang and Seoul, according to the South’s Yonhap news agency. It will be the first time since the park started operating in 2004 that the South has stopped work there.

Some 124 South Korean companies at the complex employ more than 54,000 North Korean workers, who make items that include clothes and utensils, Yonhap reported.

North Korea fires rocket seen as covert missile test.

North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear weapons test last month and on Sunday, fired a long-range rocket over Japanese airspace in what is widely believed to be a test of a new missile system that could reach as far as the United States. Both actions are banned by United Nations resolutions.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday that his country will impose new sanctions on North Korea because of the launch. The sanctions will include expanded restrictions on travel between the two countries and a ban on visits by North Korean ships to Japanese ports. Suga said the sanctions would be approved later by the Cabinet and also require legislative changes in parliament.

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South Korea’s Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo said halting operations at Kaesong would stop the North from using funds from the park to develop nuclear and missile technology, the Associated Press reported.

Speaking at a news conference, he said the park had provided $515 million to North Korea since work started on it in 2003, according to the news agency.

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