Two Koreas postpone reopening factory park

Bloomberg, AFP-JIJI

South Korea said talks with North Korea on reopening a jointly run industrial estate ended without agreement Wednesday, but that the two sides had agreed to meet again next week.

South Korean businesses earlier in the day inspected factories at the Kaesong industrial park for the first time since April.

Three negotiators from each side began talks at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Kaesong complex, about 10 km north of the demilitarized zone, on starting work there again and preventing future shutdowns, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said.

After four hours of meetings, the South’s chief delegate, Suh Ho, said talks on restarting the mothballed factories at Kaesong would continue Monday.

“The North and the South agreed that the complex should be maintained and further developed,” Suh told reporters at the complex.

Dialogue earlier this week cleared the way for the South’s visit Wednesday to the shuttered complex that is a key source of hard currency for Kim Jong Un’s North Korean regime. Kim has toned down his rhetoric since he withdrew his workers from Kaesong in April to protest tightened United Nations sanctions over the North’s nuclear weapons program.

“The biggest clash will be on the North wanting to restart Kaesong as soon as possible and the South wanting some sort of guarantee that the North will not unilaterally shut down the complex again in the future,” said Yang Moo-jin at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. “Neither of the two Koreas can afford to have these talks break down and see tensions and risks escalate again.”

Thirty-six administrators from Kaesong’s management committee, KT Corp., Korea Electric Power Corp. and Korea Water Resources Corp. joined the businessmen to check phone, water, electricity and other management issues, according to the Unification Ministry. The businessmen left Kaesong at around 5 p.m.