SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea said Wednesday it will ban land crossings at its border with South Korea starting next month because of what it calls the South's confrontational stance — a move that could doom a joint Korean industrial complex in the North.
The North's military is taking action to "restrict and cut off all the overland passage" across the frontier beginning Dec. 1, the country's official Korean Central News Agency said. The move comes amid heightened tensions on the peninsula and repeated accusations from the North that Seoul is engaging in "confrontational" activities.
South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyeon expressed regret over the North's decision. He said the threat would have a negative influence on reconciliation efforts on the divided penisula.
The South's Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyeon was not immediately available for comment Wednesday. But Seoul has denied taking a hard-line stance toward the North.
The KCNA report did not say how long the ban would remain in place. Prohibiting passage through the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas primarily would affect South Koreans working in an inter-Korean business complex in Kaesong and tours to the ancient city just across the border in the North.
The joint industrial complex in Kaesong, where South Korean companies have set up factories, has been a key source of hard currency for the impoverished North. The complex and a jointly run resort at Diamond Mountain in the North were seen as a prominent symbols of inter-Korean reconciliation on the divided peninsula.
South Korean tour operator Hyundai Asan Corp. said it has not received any notification from the North about its year-old Kaesong tour program. The tour has so far attracted more than 100,000 tourists, mostly South Koreans.
Kaesong also is home to some 88 South Korean factories employing about 35,000 North Korean workers. Currently, 1,900 South Koreans also live and work in Kaesong, according to the Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs.
"There is no sign of tensions here and our factory is working normally," Kang Mi-wha, a South Korean manager at footwear maker Samduk Stafild, told The Associated Press by telephone from Kaesong.
The Kaesong complex was set up by Seoul's previous, liberal government, and relations between the two Koreas have deteriorated since South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's conservative government took over in February, pledging to get tough with Pyongyang.
South Korea banned tours to Diamond Mountain after a South Korean tourist was shot to death there in July.
KCNA said the North's military informed the South of the decision to halt the border passages earlier Wednesday, citing what it called Seoul's policy of confrontation.
"Such (a) stand and attitude are leading to the grave, wanton violation of all the north-south agreements," the report said.
The North has stepped up the rhetoric against the South in recent weeks, warning that it will attack South Korea and reduce it to "debris" if Seoul continues what it says are confrontational activities against the communist country.
Last month, the North warned that it would expel South Koreans from Kaesong if propaganda leaflets critical of Pyongyang continuing floating across the border.
Inter-Korean relations "are at the crucial crossroads of existence and total severance," KCNA's report warned Wednesday.
Seoul denies taking a hard-line stance toward the North. The Unification Ministry spokesman said South Korea respects the spirits of the deals reached at two rare Korean summits held in 2000 and 2007.
The two Koreas fought a brutal three-year war that ended in 1953 in a truce, not a peace treaty. The two Koreas, technically still at war, remain divided by one of the world's most heavily fortified borders.