SEOUL, South Korea – A South Korean man was found dead Saturday at a jointly-run factory park in North Korea, officials said.
The 55-year old worker from a South Korean company that manufactures leather products and mobile phone accessories was found dead earlier that day, South Korea’s Unification Ministry told reporters at a briefing.
Officials said the cause of death was unknown but there were no signs of external injuries and the man didn’t suffer from chronic illness.
The Kaesong complex just north of the border is the last remaining inter-Korean rapprochement project.
Its operations halted in April when Pyongyang withdrew its workers amid tension over North Korean threats of nuclear war. It reopened in September after North Korea toned down its rhetoric and began pursuing diplomacy with South Korea.
The industrial park combines South Korean initiative, capital and technology with cheap North Korean labour. It’s also a rare source of hard currency for North Korea, though the impoverished country chafes at suggestions that it needs the money Kaesong generates.
North Korea is estimated to have received $80 million in workers’ salaries in 2012, an average of $127 a month per person, paid in the U.S. dollars, according to the Unification Ministry in Seoul.
The decade-old industrial park had survived previous periods of tension, including attacks blamed on Pyongyang that killed 50 South Koreans in 2010, and the shutdown of other big co-operation projects. By the end of 2012, South Korean companies had produced a total $2 billion worth of goods during the previous eight years.