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July 17, 2013

Koreas Remain Divided on Reopening Stalled Joint Factory

by VOA News

South Korea said it failed to reach an agreement with North Korea at the latest round of talks aimed at reopening a joint factory complex.

Seoul's Unification Ministry said no compromise was reached during the working-level talks held Wednesday across the North's border at Kaesong, where the complex is located.

As with three previous rounds of talks, little progress appeared to be made on the project, an important symbol of inter-Korean cooperation.

Pyongyang has so far rejected Seoul's demands for assurances the facility will not be closed unilaterally during times of worsened relations.

North Korea removed its workers from Kaesong in April, blaming unspecified "hostile action" by the South, which responded by pulling its workers.

The North was upset with expanded U.N. sanctions against its February nuclear test. It also was angry with annual U.S.-South Korea military drills.

Although work at Kaesong 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.