News / Asia

Koreas Pledge to Restart Kaesong Complex

Kim Kiwoong, right, the head of South Korea's working-level delegation, shakes hands with his North Korean counterpart Park Chol Su, left, before their meeting at Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee in Kaesong, North Korea, August 14, 2013.
Kim Kiwoong, right, the head of South Korea's working-level delegation, shakes hands with his North Korean counterpart Park Chol Su, left, before their meeting at Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee in Kaesong, North Korea, August 14, 2013.
The two Koreas have signed an agreement intended to move towards reopening what had been their only remaining joint venture - the industrial trade zone just north of their border at Kaesong.

The vaguely-worded agreement between Pyongyang and Seoul reveals no date for the resumption of operations at the complex. South Korea's semi-official Yonhap news agency says the reopening will depend on how soon South Korean companies can complete maintenance checks on their facilities there.
 
The zone has been shuttered for four months.

Kaesong Joint Industrial Complex

-Started producing goods in 2004
-Employs about 53,000 North Koreans
-120 South Korean businesses operate there
-Hailed as rare example of North/South cooperation
-Generates $2 billion in trade annually for North
-Located 10 kilometers north of border
Six previous rounds of inter-Korean talks had failed to reach a conclusion. The seventh round on Wednesday led to the joint statement that, while inconclusive, pledges an active effort to resume operations free of political considerations and promoting investment in the zone by third countries. It also calls for allowing Internet and mobile phone connections within Kaesong.

The accord states that a joint committee will be established concerning compensation for economic losses suffered as a result of the shutdown.

Yonhap states that officials in Seoul said the latest round of talks focused on South Korea's demand for a clear guarantee from the North to never again shut down the factories.

Amid threats by Pyongyang to launch a nuclear attack on South Korea and the United States, the North removed its 53,000 workers from the zone in April. They were employed at more than 100 South Korean-owned factories, mainly small and medium-sized textile manufacturers.

The zone, 10 kilometers north of the heavily militarized border, opened in 2004 and is thought to have been a crucial source of hard currency for the impoverished and isolated state.

The two Koreas have no diplomatic relations and technically remain at war. They fought to a stalemate in 1953 after a three-year civil conflict which devastated the peninsula and also pitted American forces against the Chinese.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

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