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North, South Korea Normalize Cross-Border Traffic



South and North Korea have resumed traffic across their tense border to a jointly run industrial zone, renewing hopes for the project's viability. The move reflects a thaw in tensions after recent diplomatic moves between the two Koreas.

South Korean Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said Tuesday that traffic across the North Korean border is set to resume at levels not seen for more than a year.

She says starting from Tuesday, up to 23 trips will be allowed back and forth across the North-South border to a joint industrial zone in the North Korean city of Kaesong. Up to four trips a day will be permitted between South Korea and a joint resort zone at the North's Kumgang mountain.

Traffic to both zones nearly ground to a halt soon after the inauguration of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak early last year. Mr. Lee ended the practice of his two predecessors of transferring hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and investment to the North, regardless of how it behaved. The Lee administration says economic help will be conditioned on the North's willingness to give up nuclear weapons.

However, the North has made diplomatic overtures to the South recently including a recent meeting between senior envoys and President Lee.

South Korean companies employ more than 30,000 low-wage North Korean workers in the Kaesong complex, producing goods like cosmetics and sportswear. For those companies, the resumption of normal traffic is cause for celebration.

Park Young-man is the executive director of the Corporation of Kaesong Industrial Council.

Park says the news made his fellow managers cheerful, and even boisterous. He says this is the high season for manufacturing, and many clients have been phoning with positive expectations.

Yoo Chang-gun, vice-chairman of the Corporation of Kaesong Industrial Council, is approaching the news with caution.

Yoo says he thinks it will take considerable time to recover from the huge blow that the border closure has dealt to companies operating in Kaesong. He says even loyal clients had stopped ordering from his company because of the border uncertainty. He hopes the South Korean government will get actively involved in assisting with a Kaesong zone recovery.

Separately, North Korean media report a senior diplomatic team has gone to China. Beijing hosts six-nation talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs. Pyongyang abandoned those talks in April, shortly before it conducted its second nuclear weapons test.

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