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Koreas Agree to Reopen Shuttered Kaesong Factory

A bus carrying South Korean delegation leaves for North Korea's Kaesong city for a meeting, at the Unification bridge in Paju near the border village of Panmunjom, South Korea, Aug. 14, 2013.
North and South Korea have agreed to re-open the jointly run Kaesong manufacturing complex, which was closed earlier this year during heightened military tensions.

In a joint statement today, the two sides said the agreement included a pledge from both sides to prevent any future shutdowns, a key South Korean demand for re-opening the facility.

Both sides also agreed to try to attract foreign companies to the complex.

A joint committee will be formed to refurbish the facilities and consider compensation for South Korean firms affected by the shutdown. The two sides did not give an official date for resuming operations.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was encouraged by the agreement and hoped operations would be normalized as quickly as possible and that the complex faced no further interruptions.

In April, North Korea withdrew its 53,000 workers from Kaesong angered by U.S.-South Korean military exercises and international sanctions following its February nuclear test. South Korean businesses pulled out their managers and workers in early May.

Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told VOA's Korean service the agreement set a positive tone for future discussions on a range of issues.

"For a long term perspective, the agreement changed the nature of inter-Korean relations from confrontation to reconciliation. It also paved the ground for resumption of dialogue between North and South Korea. Furthermore, this will have a positive impact on the prospect of resumption of nuclear talks and talks between the U.S. and North Korea on the fate of detained American Kenneth Bae, and the resumption of an inter-Korean tour project and reunions of separated families," he said.

The industrial park, which manufactured goods with cheap North Korean labor, provided a key source of foreign income to the leadership of the impoverished North. It is located just north of the inter-Korean border.