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NKorea Offers Fresh Talks with South on Kaesong Factory

  • VOA News

North Korea map

North Korea map

North Korea has offered fresh talks with the South and made other apparent concessions aimed at reopening a symbolically important joint factory that has been closed for months.

The North's Committee for the Reunification of Korea proposed talks next week on the Kaesong industrial complex, which lies just north of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas.

The statement, carried Wednesday in the official Korean Central News Agency, said both countries should ensure that operations at the facility not be affected by external matters in the future.

That would appear to meet a key demand by Seoul, which wants assurances the plant will not be closed at times of future military or political tension. Seoul has not officially responded to the offer.

The two sides have held several rounds of unsuccessful talks in recent weeks about Kaesong, but until now appeared to be far apart on any agreement.

The latest offer came just minutes after Seoul said it would compensate South Korean companies that operate in Kaesong. The move was interpreted by many as a sign that South Korea was willing to abandon the project.

The complex was closed in April, when North Korea pulled out its 53,000 workers as part of an angry response to international sanctions against its February nuclear test. South Korean businesses withdrew their managers and workers in early May.

Although work at the center has been suspended before during times of heightened tensions, it had never been shut down completely since it was established in 2004.

The complex, which relies on South Korean know-how and cheap North Korean labor, was a key source of hard currency for the North's troubled economy. It was the last remaining sign of cooperation between the two longtime foes.