North Korea yesterday held a South Korean employee of Hyundai Asan for allegedly criticizing its regime and urging a North Korean worker in Gaeseong to defect to the South, the Unification Ministry said.
Pyongyang notified Seoul by fax message at 11:50 a.m.
The detention comes amid strained inter-Korean ties, with North Korea planning to conduct a controversial rocket launch next week.
Earlier this month, the North closed and reopened the inter-Korean border several times to protest a joint military drill between Seoul and Washington.
"The North is obviously continuing its tactics to make trouble for the South. And because the inter-Korean relations are not at their best, this situation could be prolonged," said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.
He noted that the North seemed to mean business, as it has decided to hold someone who works for Hyundai Asan Corp., the Hyundai affiliate in charge of the operation of the Gaeseong complex where about 100 South Korean firms operate with North Korean employees.
North Korea has continued its brinkmanship as it seeks to keep the Kim Jong-il regime intact.
The rocket launch - which the North claims to be a satellite - is the latest of such tactics. Seoul, Washington and others in the six-party talks aimed at denuclearizing Pyongyang have said it would be a violation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718 regardless of whether it is a satellite or a missile.
The Unification Ministry yesterday said it had called on South Koreans to refrain from seeking North Korean entry starting April 4, as the North has said it plans to conduct the launch between then up to April 8.
This is not the first time since the Gaeseong complex opened that South Koreans have been detained.
Some were held for legitimate reasons, such as drinking and driving, but several were investigated for breaking North Korean laws.
An inter-Korean accord on the joint industrial complex calls for South Koreans breaching North Korean law to be suspended from work, be subject to investigations and to be fined or expelled.
In 1999, a South Korean tourist was held for five days in 1999 for telling a North Korean guard in the Mount Geumgang resort that North Korean defectors were living comfortably in the South.
The North is currently holding two U.S. journalists for entering its territory across the country's border with China