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North and South Korea agree to reopen industrial complex

August 14, 2013|By Jung-yoon Choi
  • North Korea's chief delegate Pak Chol-su, left, shakes hands with his South Korean counterpart Kim Ki-woong during talks at the Kaesong industrial complex. The two sides reached an agreement on reopening the industrial zone, which was shut down in April amid rising military tensions.
North Korea's chief delegate Pak Chol-su, left, shakes hands with… (Pool Photo / Agence France-Presse…)

SEOUL -- North and South Korea on Wednesday agreed to reopen the joint Kaesong industrial complex after a four-month shutdown, raising hopes of easing tensions on the peninsula.

On the eve of the anniversary of Korean independence from Japanese colonial rule nearly seven decades ago, delegates from the two sides meeting in Kaesong reached a five-point agreement to reopen the business zone in the North Korean town near the border.

They agreed that the complex was "not to be affected by inter-Korean situations under any circumstances" while they sought to make the business zone "into one with international competitiveness," promoting foreign investment.

No immediate date was set for reopening the complex. The two sides will set up a committee to implement the arrangements.

Kaesong, which combines South Korean capital and technology with cheap labor from the North, stood as a symbol of peace efforts between the two countries. However, North Korea withdrew its workers in April during a sharp downturn in relations with the South and its allies that included a steady stream of war-like messages from Pyongyang.

South Korea has been seeking guarantees that the North would not unilaterally close the complex again. Six rounds of talks ended last month in failure and  tension. Pyongyang said it was willing to turn Kaesong into a military base.

The tide turned last week when North Korea lifted its ban on operations at the complex, responding to Seoul's call for the new round of talks. Pyongyang's decision gave hope to 123 South Korean companies that operate in the site, which employees 50,000 workers.

Pyongyang also sent a rare message to South Korea last week, saying that it was looking forward to a productive outcome from the talks.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye welcomed the results of Wednesday's talks.

"I wish the meeting will be a turning point for South and North Korean relations, marking a fresh start," a presidential spokesperson quoted Park as saying. "I anticipate that South and North Korea will make efforts together to globalize the Kaesong complex."

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