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Korea Talks Produce Little Progress on Joint Factory Park


Thee future of a joint North-South Korean industrial park is still unclear after the latest round of working level talks between the two sides. The North has provided no further information about a detained South Korean executive. And it continues to demand large increases in wages earned by North Korean workers and rent on properties leased to the South.

North and South Korea say they will keep talking - but Friday's meeting in the North Korean city of Kaesong failed to produce any tangible progress on a dispute over a joint factory zone there.

South Korean Unification Ministry Spokesman Chun Hae-sung says the South's delegation urged the North to quickly resolve outstanding security issues, especially the matter of a South Korean executive who has been detained for more than 80 days.

However South Korean officials say the North provided no information about the executive, who is accused of making inflammatory political remarks about the North, and possibly encouraging a North Korean factory worker to defect.

The Kaesong Industrial Complex matches about 100 South Korean firms with nearly 40,000 North Korean workers to make simple manufactured items like cookware and sneakers. The vision behind the zone, when it opened in 2004, was to benefit both sides economically while providing a practical laboratory for cooperation between the two Koreas, which remain technically at war.

However, problems facing the complex have mirrored the steadily declining state of relations between North and South Korea over the past year-and-a-half. Pyongyang calls South Korean President, Lee Myung-bak's administration, a "group of traitors." Mr. Lee has taken a much harder line on transfers of aid and money to the North than his predecessors, calling for North Korea to make more progress in ending its nuclear weapons programs.

Last month, the North announced it was nullifying all of the wage and rental agreements it had signed with the South.

Spokesman Chun said the North used Friday's meeting to repeat demands it made a week earlier to significantly increase wages earned by North Korean workers and rent on properties leased to the South.

The North demanded the South more than triple workers' pay to $300 a month, and asked for rental payments to be increased by a factor of 30. Chun says South Korea rejected those demands.

The two sides have scheduled another meeting in about two weeks, on July 2.

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