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Asia-pacific

Koreas hold rare meeting to discuss joint factory park

© Photo: AFP / South Korea's Unification Ministry

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2013-07-06

Delegates from North and South Korea began talks Saturday on re-opening the Kaesong joint industrial zone, which had been seen as the last remaining symbol of cross-border reconciliation. The factory park was closed in April amid rising tensions.

North and South Korean officials met on Saturday to find a way to reopen a jointly run industrial zone, a rare source of steady cash for the impoverished North, a month after their last attempt at dialogue collapsed in acrimony over protocol.

The South Korean government has been under pressure from the owners of the 123 smaller companies that run factories at the Kaesong industrial park, which sits just minutes from the heavily armed border, to find a compromise to reopen it.

“We will focus on the agenda and try to work on building confidence and cooperation starting with small issues and try our best to channel that to bigger confidence and cooperation,” South Korean chief delegate Suh Ho told reporters before the talks.

North Korea shut down the factories in April, pulling out all 53,000 of its workers and banning South Korean firms from crossing the border with supplies and managers at the height of tensions between the two sides.

The North said the South Korean government and media had insulted its good intentions by saying it only let the project continue because of the money it generated.

Earlier this year, North Korea threatened strikes with nuclear and other missiles against the South and the United States after the United Nations tightened sanctions against it for conducting its third nuclear test in February.

The North then eased tensions by agreeing to dialogue last month that would have led to the resumption of high-level talks for the first time in six years. However, plans for that meeting then collapsed over a seemingly minor disagreement about who would lead the respective delegations.

The reopening of the Kaesong project is seen as meeting the political interest of the capitalist and democratic South, one of the world’s richest countries, and the economic interest of the reclusive North.

Experts say the North often alternates between threats of military action and then negotiations in a bid to extract aid. Its long-term aim is to win diplomatic recognition from the United States and to be recognised as a nuclear weapons state.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has pledged to engage the North in dialogue and take steps to build confidence for better ties, but has also vowed not to give in to unreasonable demands or make concessions to achieve superficial progress.

Her predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, cut off a decade of lucrative aid from liberal leaders and demanded nuclear disarmament, angering the North.

The North was blamed for sinking a South Korean navy ship and bombing an island while Lee was in office. About 50 people were killed in the two incidents.

(REUTERS)

Date created : 2013-07-06

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