North Korea said Monday it will evacuate about 55,000 citizens from the Kaesong industrial complex, severing the last link between itself and South Korea.

Officials in the North Korean capitol of Pyongyang didn't say whether it aims to permanently close the industrial zone, an initiative that was built in 2004 and that accounts for a major part of the impoverished communist country's foreign currency.

Since last Wednesday, North Korea has blocked South Koreans from entering the zone, which has forced 13 of the 123 South Korean companies operating there to halt production. South Korean workers in the zone have been allowed to return home.

North Korea's move, the latest in a string of provocative acts that include saying it will destroy the United States in a nuclear attack, comes shortly before the April 15 celebration of the 101st anniversary of the birth of its founder, Kim Il Sung.