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(LEAD) S. Korea prudent about Kaesong complex despite N.K.'s nuke test

All Headlines 13:35 January 08, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS more details from para 8)

SEOUL, Jan. 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said Friday it is still premature to consider the shutdown of a joint industrial park in North Korea or the withdrawal of South Koreans there despite Pyongyang's latest nuclear test.

There has been speculation that South Korea may push for the temporary closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

"At this stage, we don't think it is appropriate to talk about the withdrawal or closure of the complex," Jeong Joon-hee, the Unification Ministry's spokesman told a regular press briefing, when asked about the government's future move.

The government will take necessary steps to ensure the safety of South Koreans who move in and out of the complex, he added.

A total of 124 South Korean firms are running factories with about 54,000 North Koreans working at the factory zone, the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation, which opened in 2004.

The Seoul government said Thursday it will only permit South Korean businessmen directly involved in the operation of the factories to enter the park "for the time being." It did not elaborate on how long its measure will be effective.

North Korea's claimed successful test of a hydrogen bomb earlier this week has caused heightened tensions between the two countries.

In response, Seoul resumed its loudspeaker broadcasts against North Korea along the inter-Korean border at noon. In August, the South turned on the high-decibel loudspeakers carrying anti-North Korean messages for the first time in 11 years in retaliation for a land mine blast near the border blamed on the North.

Later, South and North Korea reached a rare agreement on Aug. 25 to defuse a military standoff and make efforts to improve their ties. At that time, Seoul said it would resume the loudspeaker broadcasts if "abnormal" situations occur.

The spokesman said that the North's nuclear test itself constitutes a violation of the August deal.

"Any agreement between the two Koreas should be honored," Jeong said. "We urge North Korea to take necessary steps (to ease tensions)."

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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