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Joint Korean complex ends reconciliation bid

| Friday, May 3, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

PAJU, South Korea — The last seven South Koreans stationed at a jointly run factory park in North Korea pulled out Friday, silencing the complex for the first time since it started nine years ago in a seemingly distant era of reconciliation.

The complex in the town of Kaesong, just north of the Koreas' heavily fortified border, was the rivals' only remaining symbol of rapprochement. It had employed more than 53,000 North Korean workers and hundreds of South Korean managers until last month, when Pyongyang started gradually blocking its operations.

The last seven South Koreans left after negotiating taxes and the back salaries of North Korean workers. Their departure leaves the Koreas with virtually no official communication channel.

It also could spell the end of an experiment that many saw as a bridge between the divided Koreas that was meant to help pave the way for a future unified Korea by proving that workers from two polar opposite economic systems could collaborate.

Through both liberal and conservative governments in Seoul, Kaesong survived past tensions, including attacks blamed on North Korea in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans.

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