S.Koreans in North's factory zone stay despite risk

By REUTERS
April 4, 2013 11:37
1 minute read.

 
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PAJU, South Korea - Hundreds of South Koreans rejected the chance to leave factories in North Korea on Thursday that have become the centre of a bitter standoff between the two countries, running the risk of becoming hostages to keep their plants going.

For those whose commute to work already involving a trip across the world's most heavily fortified border and into one of its most repressive states, this week's tensions were another reminder of their precarious livelihoods.

It also showed how South Koreans have become largely inured to threats from their impoverished and bellicose neighbour.

On Wednesday, Pyongyang barred access to the Kaesong Industrial park, where 123 mostly small South Korean firms employ 50,000 North Korean workers to make clothing, shoes and other goods.

"I have four dependents in my family. We didn't go there for political reasons, we were there to make our living," said Kwon Bo-sun, a 44-year-old trailer driver who was waiting at the South Korean border town of Paju to see if he would be allowed to truck supplies into the zone.

Pyongyang has allowed South Korean factory managers and workers to leave Kaesong, about 5 km (3 miles) inside North Korea.

But out of 828 people who spent the night there just 222 had indicated they wanted to return to South Korea on Thursday, with the rest continuing to try to keep their factories running.

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