The last seven South Koreans workers have left Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea, after the two Koreas resolved outstanding financial issues.
The workers had stayed behind after the other South Korean staff had left to negotiate wages demanded by North Korea.
Kaesong Industrial Complex has been at a standstill since North Korea withdrew its 50,000 workers in April.
North Korea has previously restricted entry to Kaesong joint industrial zone, but this is the first time all South Koreans have withdrawn.
The last seven South Koreans workers have left Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea, after the two Koreas resolved outstanding financial issues
Kaesong Industrial Complex, which was launched in 2003, was seen as one of the last remaining symbols of inter-Korean co-operation.
North-South tensions escalated following Pyongyang’s third nuclear test in February.
The last seven South Korean workers had been expected to cross the border at 17:30 local time on Friday.
“The return was delayed a little [today] due to some technical procedure issue,” said Hong Yang-Ho, head of the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee
“The North [Korea] fully co-operated during our returning process.”
Hong Yang-ho also said he believes there will be discussions about the future of the complex, but did not elaborate further.
South Korean vehicles loaded with outstanding North Korean wages and taxes worth $13 million crossed into the North at the same time the workers returned.
Those delivering the money have also returned to South Korea, reports say.
The zone is home to 123 South Korean companies which employ North Korean workers, and provides the North with badly-needed hard currency.
North Korea blocked South Korean workers from entering the zone in April, and withdrew its 53,000 workers from the industrial park a few days later.
After North Korea rejected Seoul’s calls for talks on resuming operations at the park, South Korea announced that it too would withdraw all its workers from the complex.
It pulled out 125 South Koreans last week and another 43 on Monday, leaving the final seven to “settle accounting and other unresolved matters”.
Pyongyang has been angered by tightened UN sanctions imposed after its February 12 nuclear test and by joint US-South Korea military drills, which it has described as “attack rehearsals”.
On Thursday, North Korea sentenced a US citizen to 15 years of hard labor for alleged anti-government crimes.
American citizen Pae Jun-ho, known in the US as Kenneth Bae, was detained last year after entering North Korea as a tourist. Analysts suggest Pyongyang could be using the jailed American as leverage.
North Korea has blocked the entry of South Korean workers into joint Kaesong industrial zone, in a move seen as further escalating tensions.
South Korean workers were being allowed to leave Kaesong Industrial Complex but not cross into it from the South, Seoul’s Unification Ministry confirmed.
The Kaesong zone at North-South border, which is a money-maker for North Korea, is seen as a key barometer of inter-Korean relations.
North Korea has blocked the entry of South Korean workers into joint Kaesong industrial zone
The move came as the US called North Korea’s recent rhetoric unacceptable.
Kaesong Industrial Complex is home to more than 100 factories. More than 50,000 North Koreans work there, as well as several hundred South Korean managers.
Permission is granted on a daily basis for workers to cross into the complex, where they can stay overnight. More than 850 South Koreans were at Kaesong when the ban was announced.
“South Korea’s government deeply regrets the entry ban and urges it be lifted immediately,” Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-seok told reporters.
“Ensuring the safety of our citizens is our top priority and the South Korean government will take necessary measures based on this principle,” he said.
The entry ban is not unprecedented – South Koreans were briefly denied access in March 2009 because of US-South Korea military exercises.
North Korea, which has been angered by UN sanctions imposed after its recent nuclear test and annual US-South Korea military drills, threatened to shut down the complex last week.
In recent weeks North Korea has also threatened attacks on US military bases in Asia and South Korean border islands.
On April 2, North Korea said it planned to restart its mothballed reactor at Yongbyon – the source of plutonium for its nuclear weapons programme.
Later in the day, US Secretary of State John Kerry called recent North Korean actions “dangerous” and “reckless”.
“Let me be perfectly clear here today. The United States will defend and protect ourselves and our treaty ally, the Republic of Korea (South Korea),” John Kerry said after talks with his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-se.
In recent days the US has responded to North Korea with a series of high-profile flights of advanced aircraft, including stealth fighters and nuclear-capable B-52 bombers, over South Korea.
Officials have also confirmed that the USS John McCain, an Aegis-class destroyer capable of intercepting missiles, has been positioned off the Korean peninsula.
A second destroyer, the USS Decatur, has been sent to the region.
Earlier on Tuesday UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had warned that the crisis had “gone too far” and called for urgent talks with the North.
“Things must begin to calm down, there is no need for the DPRK [North Korea] to be on a collision course with the international community. Nuclear threats are not a game,” Ban Ki-moon said.