Asia

South Korea offers 'final' Kaesong talks

South Korea's chief delegate Kim Ki-woong (L) speaks with his North Korean counterpart Pak Chul-su (R) during a meeting at the Kaesong industrial complex in North Korea, 15 July 2013
Image caption The two sides have held multiple rounds of talks, with little success to date

South Korea has proposed "final talks" on restarting operations at the joint Kaesong industrial zone, amid deadlock with North Korea.

The zone has been closed since April, when North Korea withdrew its workers.

The two sides have held six rounds of talks on a restart, but are deadlocked on Seoul's insistence that Pyongyang agree not to unilaterally close the complex again.

On Sunday Seoul's unification minister said a written guarantee was needed.

"We want a clear answer from the North on preventing a recurrence," Ryoo Kihl-jae said.

"Otherwise, we will be left with no choice but to make a grave decision to prevent even bigger damages on our companies in the future."

North Korea blames the shut-down on South Korean provocations, including military exercises.

'No income'

The proposal for "final talks" was formally communicated to North Korea on Monday via the communication line at the truce village of Panmunjom, South Korean media reported.

It did not include a date or time for the mooted talks, Yonhap news agency reported citing the Unification Ministry.

The Kaesong industrial zone, which lies just inside North Korea, is a major symbol of inter-Korean co-operation and a key earner for Pyongyang.

More than 120 South Korean manufacturers employ some 53,000 North Koreans at the zone, which has been in operation for a decade.

But work stopped in April when North Korea ordered its workers out.

The move came amid high tensions on the peninsula in the wake of North Korea's 12 February nuclear test and then annual US-South Korea military drills.

Tensions have decreased somewhat in recent weeks, but the two Koreas have not yet found a mutually acceptable solution to the Kaesong issue, despite multiple rounds of working-level talks.

On Sunday Mr Ryoo met representatives of the South Korean firms, which have now been shut down for four months.

"It's been almost 120 days. As you mentioned, I think the support [of the government] is not enough. We have not any income for four months," said Han Jae-kwon, president of the association representing South Korean companies in Kaesong.