SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Wednesday offered South Korea guarantees aimed at breaking deadlocked negotiations on reopening a joint industrial zone, and proposed a fresh round of talks next week.
As well as allowing South Korean firms full access to the Kaesong complex, which closed in April amid soaring military tensions, the North will guarantee the attendance of its workers and the safety of all South Koreans at the complex, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) said in a statement.
Crucially, it also proposed that both North and South prevent any similar closure of Kaesong in the future by ensuring that operations are never again "affected by any situation in any case."
If the South responds to what the CPRK called "this bold and magnanimous stand," the committee said the North would agree to a seventh round of working-level talks on Kaesong's future on August 14.
The statement, carried on the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), was the North's first response to South Korea's request, made on July 28, for a "final" set of talks.
On Sunday the South had said it was "reaching the limit" of its patience on the issue. Earlier Wednesday it announced it would begin paying out $250 million in compensation to the South Korean companies forced to abandon their factories in Kaesong.
The announcement was widely seen as presaging a decision permanently to shut down all operations at the complex, which lies 10 kilometers (six miles) across the border in North Korea.
© AFP 2013