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S. Korea Weighs Closing Kaesong Complex Over Rocket Launch

FILE - North Korean employees, shown in December 2013, sew in a South Korean-owned company at the Kaesong industrial park just north of the demilitarized zone.

South Korea's point man on North Korea hinted Monday at possibly shutting down an inter-Korean industrial complex as a punitive measure against North Korea in response to the communist country's long-range rocket launch.

On Sunday, Pyongyang proceeded with the controversial launch despite international objections, drawing strong protests from neighboring South Korea.

Hong Yong-pyo, South Korea's Unification Minister, told lawmakers Seoul will "ensure North Korea pays a price corresponding to its nuclear test and long-range missile launch."

Hong said the closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex is one of the measures the government is considering.

Weighing additional sanctions

Hong's comments mark the first time Seoul has indicated its willingness to consider closing the complex over Pyongyang's recent aggressions.

South Korea has been increasing sanctions against North Korea since Pyongyang's nuclear test Jan. 6. Shortly after the test, Seoul suspended aid to Pyongyang and limited inter-Korean exchanges. Seoul also limited South Koreans' stay at the complex. On Sunday, it further limited the number of South Koreans staying overnight at the facility in response to Pyongyang's rocket launch.

The industrial complex, where some 54,000 North Koreans are currently working at about 120 South Korean factories, opened in 2004. Last year, the output of companies at the complex exceeded $500 million for the first time since its opening, according to South Korea's Unification Ministry.

Pyongyang earns around $100 million a year from the deal. In April 2013, Pyongyang shut down the complex to protest joint military drills between Seoul and Washington, but reopened it in several months.

Sunday's rocket launch escalated tensions on the Korean peninsula.

On Monday, a North Korean patrol boat intruded into South Korean waters in the Yellow Sea for about 20 minutes. The North Korean vessel retreated after the South Korean navy fired several rounds of warning shots.

VOA’s Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report.