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North Korea Urges Foreigners to Consider Leaving

South Korean vehicles returning home from North Korea's Kaesong are escorted by a South Korean military vehicle upon their arrival at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, April 9, 2013.

South Korean vehicles returning home from North Korea's Kaesong are escorted by a South Korean military vehicle upon their arrival at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, April 9, 2013.

None of the 53,000 North Koreans employed at the Kaesong factory complex, the only remaining North-South joint venture, showed up for work Tuesday. This comes a day after a high-level North Korean official announced the project was being suspended, blaming the South for turning the complex into a "theater of confrontation." Meanwhile, North Korea has urged foreigners to consider leaving the South in case a war breaks out.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye used a Tuesday cabinet meeting to warn Pyongyang that "no country or company in the world" will invest in North Korea if it suspends operations at the Kaesong joint industrial zone.

The president says North Korea's decision is "very disappointing." She asked how long does her country have to face a vicious cycle of North Korea asking for compromise and support and then creating crises.

Park spoke as the 400 remaining South Korea factory managers still inside the Kaesong facility, just north of the border, were forced to suspend production because none of their North Korean employees reported for work.

Financial impact

Kaesong Joint Industrial Complex

-Started producing goods in 2004
-Employs about 53,000 North Koreans
-120 South Korean businesses operate there
-Hailed as rare example of North/South cooperation
-Generates $2 billion in trade annually for North
-Located 10 kilometers north of border
The head of the factory owners' association, Han Jae-kwon, said if the situation continues the small and medium enterprises will face bankruptcy.

Han said the group wants to send a delegation to North Korea to discuss the fate of the Kaesong complex. He also is calling on both Seoul and Pyongyang to hold talks to find a way to immediately normalize the facility's operations.

After a tour of the complex on Monday, the secretary of the central committee of North Korea's Workers' Party, Kim Yang Gon, announced Pyongyang will reevaluate whether the project, which began production in 2004, will continue. Kim says that will depend on Seoul's attitude in the next few days.

Rising tensions

Tensions Rising on Korean Peninsula

  • February 12: North Korea carries out third nuclear test
  • March 27: North Korea cuts military hotline with South Korea
  • March 28: U.S. B-2 bombers fly over Korean peninsula
  • March 30: North Korea says it has entered a "state of war" with South Korea
  • April 3: North Korea blocks South Korean workers from Kaesong
  • April 4: North Korea moves a missile to its east coast
  • April 9: North Korea urges foreigners to leave the South. The U.S. and South Korea raise alert level
  • April 14: US Secretary of State John Kerry offers talks with Pyongyang if it moves to scrap nuclear weapons
  • April 16: North Korea issues threats after anti-Pyongyang protests in Seoul
  • April 29: North Korea holds back seven South Koreans at Kaesong
  • April 30: North Korea sentences American to 15 years hard labor for hostile acts
  • May 20: North Korea fires projectiles for a consecutive third day
  • May 24: North Korean envoy wraps up China visit for talks on Korean tensions
  • June 7: South Korea accepts Pyongyang's offer of talks on Kaesong and other issues
The two Koreas, which have no diplomatic relations, find themselves in an increasingly tense standoff.

On Tuesday, a state-run group in Pyongyang, the Korea Asia Pacific Peace Committee, urged foreigners living in South Korea that they should consider evacuating the country, saying the North "does not wish harm on foreigners in South Korea should there be a war."

A television announcer, during a special broadcast of the statement, says “once a war is ignited on the peninsula, it will be an all-out war, that is a merciless sacred retaliatory war to be waged” by North Korea which “does not want to see foreigners in South Korea fall victim to the war.”

This comes after a similar previous advisory to diplomats in the North Korean capital stating the safety of foreigners there could not be guaranteed from April 10th. None of the 24 diplomatic missions in Pyongyang has closed nor sent its nationals out of the country.

North Korea has renounced the 1953 ceasefire agreement it made with the U.S.-led United Nations forces and China. It then threatened a preemptive nuclear strike on the U.S. mainland and America's military bases in the Pacific region. Pyongyang also declared that a state of war again exists between the North and South.

Fears of new missile launch

There is also growing speculation that, within days, North Korea could fire medium or long range missiles.

South Korean domestic media, including YTN and the semi-official Yonhap news agency, on Tuesday afternoon quoted government sources in Seoul saying there are indications a North Korea missile launch along the Sea of Japan (East Sea) coast could occur Wednesday.

A spokesman at South Korea's Ministry of National Defense told VOA News that it "cannot confirm" the reports.

South Korean officials say they are also monitoring the North's nuclear test site at Punggye-ri where activity of personnel and vehicles has been spotted.

North Korean missile launches and nuclear tests are in violation of U.N. resolutions.

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