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SKorea to pull officials from North

South Korean officials will clear out of an industrial enclave in North Korea on Friday, a few days before the communist state said it would clamp down on border crossings between the rivals.

world Updated: Nov 26, 2008 09:24 IST

South Korean officials will clear out of an industrial enclave in North Korea on Friday, a few days before the communist state said it would clamp down on border crossings between the rivals, an official said on Wednesday.

North Korea said this week it would be expelling South Korean officials and some business managers from the park in Kaesong, just north of the border, on December 1 in anger at South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's policy to get tough on Pyongyang.

"On the afternoon of November 28, they will cross the Military Demarcation Line and pull out to the South," Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyeon told a news briefing, referring to government workers stationed at the industrial park.

The six government officials are among about 1,600 South Koreans based in Kaesong. Many of the managers at the park are expected to remain to keep the factories running.

Analysts say the North may be trying to pressure Lee to free up the billions of dollars in aid his left-leaning predecessor had promised Pyongyang, while it seeks cash on a separate front through nuclear talks expected to resume around December 8 where regional powers will discuss a disarmament-for-aid deal.

The Kaesong factory park, about 70 km (45 miles) from Seoul, is the only major economic connection between the two Koreas and was once hailed as a model of cooperation.

Nearly 90 South Korean companies employ more than 33,000 low-wage North Koreans to produce goods such as watches, clothes and kitchen tools. The park has provided hundreds of millions of dollars to the impoverished North.

Lee has said he will tie bilateral aid to progress the North makes on ending its nuclear programme, and has vowed not to back down in the face of threats from Pyongyang.

"It is possible that the North is considering actions to further worsen the situation," Unification Minister Kim Ha-joong told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday while adding he did not believe Pyongyang would shut down the industrial park.