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Page last updated at 09:24 GMT, Monday, 30 March 2009 10:24 UK

'Critical' S Korean held in North

Kaesong Industrial Zone, South Korean vehicles leaving it 10 Mar 09
Kaesong's output has declined amid recent tensions

A South Korean worker has been detained at a joint industrial zone in North Korea, after allegedly criticising the Stalinist nation's political system.

The North sent a letter to the South on Monday, announcing that the employee at the Kaesong complex had been held.

The North has previously detained South Koreans in the area for similar reasons.

Tensions are already high between the two Koreas, ahead of the North's planned rocket launch in early April.

The North says the launch is part of its satellite communications programme, but the US and others fear this is a cover for testing long-range missile technology.

Future fears

The joint industrial zone at Kaesong, just a few kilometres inside North Korea, is one of few remaining projects symbolic of the closer economic ties forged between the two Koreas over the past decade.

Other examples, including cross-border tourism projects, a freight rail link and regular government-to-government contact, have all been suspended because of the North's unhappiness at what it sees as the hostile administration in the South.

The conservative government of President Lee Myung-bak came to power in Seoul last year, insisting there would be no more unconditional aid to the North unless it made more progress towards giving up its nuclear weapons programme.

There is now deep anxiety about the future of the industrial zone itself.

Almost 100 South Korean companies operate factories there, employing 39,000 North Koreans who producing labour-intensive items such as watches, clothes and kitchenware.

In recent weeks the North has intermittently blocked access to Kaesong, stranding dozens of South Koreans in the complex.

Correspondents say the disruption and uncertainty is already affecting productivity.

Tensions between North Korea and the international community have also been heightened by the recent detention of two female US journalists on the China-North Korea border.

The journalists had apparently ignored warnings to stop filming in the area.

The US has expressed concern over the fate of the two women.



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