News Column

Rare Talks Between Koreas Filled with Complications

July 6, 2013

Seoul (dpa) - North and South Korea met Saturday for rare talks that were aimed at reopening their joint industrial complex that has been shuttered for three months.

North Korea called for a quick reopening of the industrial park while South Korea demanded Pyongyang accept responsibility for the closure of the complex and pay the resulting damages, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported, quoting an unnamed senior Unification Ministry official in Seoul as saying.

The park, located at Kaesong, 10 kilometres north of the inter-Korean border, closed in April after North Korea barred South Koreans and supplies from entering the complex and then halted production by withdrawing its 53,000 workers.

The complex is run by South Korean firms and employs North Korean workers. It is one of impoverished, communist North Korea's only sources of hard currency.

Seoul demanded at the talks, which took place in the neutral border village of Panmunjom, "explicit guarantees" from Pyongyang that it would never against unilaterally close the industrial park, the ministry official was quoted as saying by Yonhap.

The talks continued into the evening, the South's Unification Ministry said.

The neighbours agreed to hold the working-level talks Thursday. North Korea had earlier offered entry to South Korean companies to inspect their factories in Kaesong.

The park's closure occurred in a year of rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula as North Korea conducted its third nuclear test in February and the international community responded by tightening sanctions on one of the most highly sanctioned countries in the world.

The communist country then issued numerous threats, including a nuclear strike against the United States; declared the 1953 ceasefire with the South invalid; and prevented its 53,000 workers at the industrial park from working, saying the move was in response to the South's provocations against the North's dignity.

The park opened in 2004 as part of reconciliation agreements signed when the neighbours were on better terms.

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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