North Korea has taken more steps to restrict crossing of its border by South Koreans, warning it may soon sever contacts with the South, completely. As VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Seoul, the latest steps involve tourism and freight trains, but many South Koreans fear the shutdown of a joint North-South industrial park is in the near future.
North Korea says it is serious about a warning it issued this month to further restrict crossings of its border by South Koreans on the first of next month.
South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun says Pyongyang took several major steps Monday to restrict border crossings.
He says North Korea is suspending a tour program operated by South Korea to the Northern city, Kaesong. Daily railroad crossings by South Korean freight trains are also to be curtailed.
North and South Korea have remained technically at war for 55 years. A 1953 armistice, signed three years after North Korea invaded the South, has maintained a fragile peace along their heavily fortified border.
An historic 2000 North-South summit warmed ties and opened floodgates on a wide range of aid and economic cooperation projects funded by the South. The two showpieces of the South's engagement efforts were a joint tourism zone at the North's Mount Kumgang and an industrial park near Kaesong.
The Kumgang project was suspended after North Korea's military shot an unarmed South Korean tourist to death in July, then refused to cooperate in an investigation. North Korea says it will partially expel staff from both the Kaesong and Kumgang zones.
Spokesman Kim quotes a North Korean official who says it is up to South Korea whether Kumgang's operations resume.
North Korea's public disposition toward the South has markably worsened since the January inauguration of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. His election ended ten years of liberal presidencies that were criticized for policies toward North Korea that were overly generous and one-sided.
North Korea has repeatedly referred to Mr. Lee as a "traitor" and threatened to turn South Korea into "debris" unless he continues on his predecessors' policies.
The next major freeze in North-South relations may come on December 1 - when North Korea has vowed to seal off the inter-Korean border completely. Analysts say that would effectively put an end to the Kaesong industrial park.