More than 100 South Korean workers who remained in the shuttered Kaesong industrial complex will return home after Seoul urged them to leave the area for their safety.

Seoul told business owners of companies operating in Kaesong to pull out the 176 workers who had remained in the closed off complex since North Korea blocked access to the area and withdrew all its 53,448 workers. Pyongyang also turned away a group of South Korean businessmen carrying food and other daily necessities for staff locked in Kaesong.

Many of the 123 South Korean firms have claimed they are on the brink of bankruptcy after operations stalled.

Ryoo Kihl-jae, South Korea’s unification minister, said the decision to call back the workers was “unavoidable” after Pyongyang refused to engage in talks over the future of Kaesong.

“Our companies that have invested in the Kaesong industrial complex, trusting inter-Korean agreements and the North’s promise, are suffering from serious damage and pain,” Ryoo said.

“The North has not allowed minimum humanitarian measures such as food and medical aid for our people who have tried to protect the Kaesong complex to the end,” he added.

This comes as the latest sign of deteriorating inter-Korean relations after Pyongyang unleashed a barrage of warlike rhetoric against its neighbor and the US.