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North, South Korea to start next round of talks on Kaesong industrial zone

July 15, 2013, 5:51 UTC+3
However, Seoul expresses no confidence in the success of the upcoming talks
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Photo EPA/ITAR-TASS

Photo EPA/ITAR-TASS

PYONGYANG, July 15 (Itar-Tass) - North Korea and South Korea will hold the next round of talks on the future of the Kaesong industrial zone on Monday.

They have to define concrete conditions for resumption of operation of this industrial zone that has been staying idle for over three months.

According to the Korean Central News Agency, the previous round of talks in the North’s border city of Kaesong on July 10 yielded no results “over insincere position of the South Korean delegation,” who tried to put responsibility on Pyongyang for suspension of the complex on April 9. Nevertheless, the two countries’ delegations agreed to hold a new meeting on July 15.

Earlier North Korea and South Korea reached an agreement in principle to resume the Kaesong complex’s operation. The industrial zone was launched in 2004 and since then it has been a symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation yielding significant revenues. The sides agreed not to prevent trips of South Korean business people to the industrial zone to inspect equipment and take out readymade products.

In the period of sharp aggravation of relations between the North and the South in April Pyongyang announced the industrial zone would be temporarily shut down and the issue on its closure or resumption would be thoroughly studied. The reason for this step was “South Korea’s intention to turn this zone into a hotbed of confrontation between compatriots in the north and south of the Korean Peninsula.”

If the upcoming talks prove a success, they will open a path for other agreements, including resumption of travels of South Korean tourists to Mount Kumgang and reunions of families separated by the 1950-1953 Korean War. As a result, they may discuss cancellation of sanctions against Pyongyang imposed by South Korea’s former administration after South Korea’s patrol ship Cheonan sank in the Yellow Sea in 2010 killing 46 crewmembers. Seoul and Washington blamed for this accident North Korea, which described these accusations as allies’ provocation.

“If the current talks end with a mutually advantageous solution, this can become an important stage in building confidence between the two Koreas, which Park Geun-hye administration sees as groundwork for further development of bilateral relations,” South Korea’s governmental spokesman said.

However, Seoul expresses no confidence in the success of the upcoming talks. Getting Pyongyang’s permission South Korean business representatives started to take from the Kaesong zone materials and equipment. The management of South Korea’s companies doubt that the two countries’ delegations will manage to come to agreement.

The industrial zone engaged 123 South Korean companies that employed over 800 South Korean and around 53,000 North Korean workers, who sow clothes and assembled clocks and household appliances. The complex was closed for the first time over nine years of its operation. It functioned even amid tougher aggravation of relations between North Korea and South Korea.

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