Two Koreas Agree to Restart Shuttered Factory Park

Wednesday, 14 Aug 2013 07:54 AM

 

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SEOUL, South Korea — Rivals North and South Korea agreed on Wednesday to restart their troubled joint industrial park after a series of talks on the fate of the last symbol of economic cooperation, raising hopes of possible improvement in political ties.

A joint statement said the two sides had agreed to work together to get the Kaesong industrial zone, inside North Korea and just a few miles from the heavily armed border, up and running again and prevent another shutdown.

It did not give a date.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye welcomed the decision, saying she hoped "today's talks will be the beginning of a new start of South and North Korea relations", media said.

North Korea pulled its 53,000 workers out of the park at the height of tensions between the two sides in April, with the North threatening the United States and the South with nuclear attack.

Reclusive North Korea, for which Kaesong has been a rare source of hard currency, and the South, one of the richest countries in the world, are technically still at war as their 1950-53 civil conflict ended not in a treaty but a mere truce.

"South and North guarantee the industrial zone's normal operation . . . without influence of any kind from the political situation," the statement said, noting that they would jointly hold an overseas investors' event.

Since it opened in 2004, the Kaesong complex has generated roughly $90 million annually in wages paid directly to the North's state agency that manages the zone.

The companies had no oversight on how much was paid to the workers, most of whom were women on assembly lines.

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

The reopening of Kaesong is seen as addressing the political interests of the democratic South and the economic interests of the North that is so poor it can't feed its people.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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