South Korea shut off water and power for an industrial zone along its border with North Korea on Feb. 11, in response to recent North Korean weapons testing activity.
The Kaesong industrial zone, which is operated jointly with North Korea, has for over a decade been a symbol of cooperation between the two countries, according to Reuters. On Feb. 10, however, South Korea announced that it would suspend all activity at the factory park in retaliation to North Korea’s rocket launch on Feb. 7 and the testing of a hydrogen bomb in January.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry reported that all 280 South Korean workers were evacuated from the area on Feb. 11, after which the electricity and water supply to the industrial zone was discontinued, according to Reuters. The area also employed about 55,000 North Koreans, who worked for 124 mostly small and medium-sized manufacturers and earned approximately $160 per month.
North Korea called the actions “a declaration of war,” and froze the assets of South Korean businesses operating out of the Kaesong industrial zone. It also declared the area a military zone and cut communication hotlines between the North and South.
Cutting the hotlines, which are used by both countries’ militaries to communicate in times of relative peace, as well as by the United Nations and the Red Cross, has deepened divisions between North and South Korea and will make it more difficult to repair relations, according to Reuters.
South Korea and the U.S. have both enacted tougher sanctions against North Korea to retaliate against the North’s nuclear and missile tests. The U.S. Senate voted unanimously to tighten restrictions on North Korean business and to increase funding for humanitarian aid and educational radio programs.
The Kaesong complex, which was established in 2004 in order to provide a source of income for struggling North Koreans, was shut down for five months in 2013 amid rising tensions of North Korean nuclear tests and South Korean military drills, according to the BBC.