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Business as usual as DPRK opens border

THE Democratic People's Republic of Korea has fully reopened its border to citizens from the Republic of Korea commuting to jobs at factories in a northern economic zone after four days of restrictions.

The crossing was closed twice in a week, stranding hundreds of workers who have jobs in Kaesong and preventing deliveries of raw materials to factories in the industrial complex.

After partially opening the border on Monday, the DPRK military relayed a letter yesterday saying it would fully reopen the crossing to Kaesong workers, Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said in Seoul.

About 280 workers crossed into Kaesong while 200 others returned home, and some 100 others chose to spend the night in the enclave, the ministry said.

The DPRK has provided no explanation for the closures, which have unnerved business owners who rely on ROK managers and raw materials for factories that employ some 38,000 DPRK workers just across the border.

But Pyongyang has been critical of Seoul's decision to hold 12 days of joint military exercises with the United States at a time of heightened tension on the peninsula. As the drills got under way last Monday, the DPRK's military severed the only communications hot line between the Koreas and banned traffic across the border.

Relations between the two Koreas have steadily deteriorated since President Lee Myung-bak took office a year ago with a new, tough policy on Pyongyang. One by one, joint projects developed during the previous era of warming ties have been suspended.

The Kaesong complex - the most prominent of the landmark inter-Korean projects and a lucrative source of hard currency for the North - has been allowed to operate with a skeleton ROK staff.

But the closures forced at least 10 companies to halt operations, and many more warned they would be forced to close within days if the border restrictions were not eased.

The DPRK is also locked in a standoff with the international community over its nuclear weapons program and its plans to launch a satellite next month.


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