Koreas agree to reopen Kaesong industrial park
By Jung Ha-won, AFPSEOUL--North and South Korea agreed Wednesday to work on reopening a joint industrial zone shut down in April amid soaring military tensions — and vowed to prevent its closure being repeated.
August 15, 2013, 12:07 am TWN
But they failed to set a precise date for the resumption of operations at the shuttered complex in Kaesong, and the South Korean side sounded a note of caution after the deal was announced.
“This agreement is not an end but only a beginning,” its chief negotiator Kim Ki-Woong told reporters.
“We can't say for sure when (Kaesong) will actually reopen,” Kim added.
Nevertheless, the agreement marked a tangible breakthrough after six previous rounds of talks had ended in mutual recrimination.
The five-point deal committed both sides to “active efforts” to resume normal operations in Kaesong after inspecting the 123 shuttered South Korean factories housed in the complex.
A joint committee will be set up to oversee the process and discuss compensation for any economic losses suffered.
Kaesong had managed to ride out previous North-South crises without serious disruption, but it eventually fell victim to an extended period of heightened tension following the North's third nuclear test in February.
The six previous rounds of talks had foundered on the South's insistence that North Korea provide a binding guarantee that it would not close the complex again.
Wednesday's agreement suggested a compromise had been reached where the North accepted the worker pullout had closed Kaesong, but both sides jointly promised to ensure it remained open in the future.
“The South and the North will prevent the current suspension of the Kaesong industrial complex caused by the workers' withdrawal from being repeated again,” it said.
It also included a pledge to promote foreign investment in Kaesong — a key South Korean demand.
The North had proposed the seventh round of talks last week, just hours after Seoul announced it was going to start compensation payments totaling US$250 million to the businesses impacted by Kaesong's closure. The payout move was widely seen as the first step towards a permanent withdrawal from the zone.