July 04, 2013 09:32
North Korea in a fresh volte-face on Wednesday said it wants to restore inter-Korean hotlines and allow South Korean manufacturers to close the Kaesong Industrial Complex.
Around 5 p.m. Wednesday, the North Korean agency in charge of the joint-Korean industrial park sent a message through liaison officials to the South Korean management committee and an association of South Korean manufacturers there.
It pledged to "allow South Korean businessmen to visit the industrial park to work out emergency measures to prevent damage to facilities and materials in the rainy season." It also promised to take "necessary measures for their cross-border travel and communications" and asked to be given a schedule.
Officials from the management committee can also visit, for "any necessary consultations," it added.
The message was preceded by a phone call.
Cabinet members here immediately held an emergency meeting but failed to agree whether the manufacturers should be permitted to go, a government spokesman said. "The government will make a decision soon," he added.
Seoul has for some time been calling for cross-border talks to reopen the Kaesong complex. The two sides will continue to communicate through liaison officials, starting with a telephone contact at 9 a.m. Thursday, according to the spokesman.
Experts are unconvinced that the North is sincere about reopening the industrial park, which comes amid efforts by the North Korean regime to win back lost love from its traditional allies and after an attempt to arrange official cross-border negotiations floundered due to North Korean grandstanding.
Meanwhile, machine and electronics parts makers with factories in Kaesong met at the Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business in Seoul and urged the governments of both Koreas to decide whether to reopen the zone within 10 days to help them restart their businesses before they lose all their customers.
The manufacturers urged the North to reconnect military communications lines and retrieve their belongings. They warned they will "relocate facilities somewhere else at home or abroad unless a decision is made as soon as possible."
Yu Dong-ok, a spokesman for the manufacturers, said, "It seems that the North has belatedly realized that the industrial complex can return to normal only when the businesses are resuscitated." He expressed hope that the North's latest offer will help put inter-Korean relations as a whole on a better footing.
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