Asia

South Korea proposes Kaesong talks with North

  • 4 July 2013
  • From the section Asia
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Visitors look at products made at Kaesong industrial complex in North Korea, displayed at the unification observation post in Paju near the border village of Panmunjom, that has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, South Korea, 6 June 2013
Image caption The factory zone was the biggest contributor to inter-Korean trade

South Korea has offered working-level talks with the North on reopening the jointly-run Kaesong industrial zone.

Seoul made the proposal a day after Pyongyang said South Korean officials could visit the closed complex to inspect and maintain equipment.

Work at the factory park, which was a rare symbol of North-South co-operation, was halted in April amid high regional tensions.

Attempts to hold high-level talks last month failed on procedural grounds.

"The government wants talks to be held at the truce village of Panmunjom," South Korea's Ministry of Unification said in a statement.

"Seoul's stance remains consistent and centres on government authorities resolving all outstanding issues through dialogue."

It said the offer of talks was made via a North-South hotline that was cut by Pyongyang in June but has now been restored.

North Korea has yet to respond to the offer.

Operations suspended

South Korea proposed that the talks take place on Saturday.

Prior to operations being suspended, there were around 120 South Korean businesses in the factory park, which had provided the North with a source of much-needed hard currency.

On Wednesday, North Korea said it would allow South Korean companies to enter the complex, which is located just inside North Korea, to protect their equipment from damage in the rainy season.

The offer came after some South Korean firms threatened to abandon the zone entirely and relocate their equipment.

A spokesman representing electronic and machinery makers in Kaesong had said: "Kaesong must be reopened or [the factories] have to move elsewhere".

Pyongyang withdrew its 53,000 workers from the complex in April, apparently angered by tightened UN sanctions in the wake of its nuclear test in February, and annual South Korea-US military drills.

North Korea also prevented South Korean workers from entering the joint commercial zone.

The last South Korean workers left the zone on 3 May.

In June, officials from North and South Korea agreed to hold their first high-level government meeting since 2007, focused on resuming operations at Kaesong industrial park.

However, the planned talks were suspended after the two sides disagreed on the composition of the delegations.

North Korea then proposed high-level talks with the US.

However, both Washington and Seoul responded coolly to the offer, with the US saying that Pyongyang would be judged "by its actions and not its words".

Meanwhile, South Korea said that it would increase its cyber-security budget from 5 trillion won ($4.38bn; £2.88bn) to 10 trillion won ($8.76bn; £5.76bn), and train 5,000 cyber security experts.

North Korea has been blamed for previous cyber attacks on South Korea, including an attack on six South Korean banks and broadcasters in March that affected 32,000 computers.