As tensions rise, South Koreans worry about future of Kaesong industrial park

(CBS News) SEOUL, South Korea - U.S. intelligence officials fully expect North Korea to launch a missile Tuesday evening or withing the next few days. It would be a test of an intermediate range rocket. Japan is within that range, but not the United States.

The test would be the latest belligerent act of North Korea's new dictator, who may be as young as 29 years old.

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The latest threat comes as North Korean President Kim Jung Un made good on his promise to close the Kaesong industrial park. Kaesong has 120 factories where both North and South Koreans work side by side.

North Korea told 50,000 workers to stay home Tuesday, but some South Koreans did show up for work -- along with swarms of photographers and journalists who arrived on a tour organized by the government of South Korea.

CBS News managed to speak to one South Korean worker as he was leaving.

"The work here is stopped. Without North Korean workers, these factories cannot run anymore," he said.

Workers stuffed overflowing bags of goods and boxes into cars and trucks, unsure when they might return.

North Korea stands to lose $80 million dollars in wages a year with Kaesong closed.

The park was built in 2003 as an economic bridge between the two countries to try and overcome 60 years of mistrust.

But North Korea said it closed Kaesong in response to the escalating tensions and joint military exercises by South Korea and the United States that are underway.

South Korean national security adviser Cheong Yong Seok
South Korean national security adviser Cheong Yong Seok
CBS News

Former South Korean national security adviser Cheong Yong Seok said that President Kim Jung Un's threats are his way of blackmailing the South to resume aid to the North.

"This is one way to make it clear that it is in a state of war," he said. "The North wants to force the South to pay."

But one worker told CBS News Kaesong is too important to be used as a bargaining chip.

"If Kaesong were to disappear, there would be no way to talk," he said.

At this point, talk isn't an option. In the past, North Korea's bad behavior has led to negotiations, but this time South Korea and the U.S. are taking a hard line: No negotiations until North Korea gives up its nuclear program.

Map of the North Korea/South Korea border, including Kaesong.
Map of the North Korea/South Korea border, including Kaesong.
CBS News
  • Margaret Brennan

    Principally assigned to the State Department, Margaret Brennan also serves as a CBS News general assignment correspondent based in Washington, D.C.

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