News / Asia

North Korea Agrees to Talks on Kaesong Dispute

North Korea, Kaesong Industrial Complex
North Korea, Kaesong Industrial Complex
— North Korea has agreed to hold inter-Korean governmental working level talks at Tongilgak on July 6.   Tongilgak is an administrative building on the North Korean side of the neutral border village of Panmunjom.

South Korea had requested to open talks with Pyongyang to settle the dispute that has kept the two countries' joint industrial complex closed for more than two 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
The South's offer for dialogue was made less than a day after the North said it would allow factory owners to return to the shuttered complex at Kaesong to inspect their machinery. Some of the operators of the facilities there, mostly small to medium-sized textile plants, say they want to remove idled sensitive equipment during the monsoon season.

Kim Hyung-suk, a spokesman for South Korea's Unification Ministry, which oversees relations with the North in lieu of diplomatic ties, told reporters that Seoul has had a consistent stance that the problems related to the industrial park should be solved through dialog between authorities of the South and the North.

The Unification Ministry said the South's latest offer to talk was relayed through an unusual face-to-face encounter at Panmunjom Thursday morning.

On April 9 North Korea pulled all of its 53,000 workers from the unique joint venture complex. It blamed provocations by the South.

The last of the South Korean personnel, representing more than 120 companies with facilities there, left Kaesong on May 3.

Steve Herman

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

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