July 05, 2013 09:30
North and South Korea have agreed to discuss the closed Kaesong Industrial Complex on Saturday. According to an agreement on Thursday, mid-ranking officials from both sides will meet in the border truce village of Panmunjom.
The complex has effectively been shut since North Korea on April 3 closed the border to traffic going into the industrial park, citing unspecified insults to its "dignity" in the South Korean press.
The officials plan to discuss maintenance of the idle manufacturing equipment, handling of finished products stored there, and how to resume production.
Seoul was able to persuade Pyongyang that the meeting should take place before any of the manufacturers go to Kaesong for separate talks, which the North proposed a day earlier.
North Korea on Tuesday said it would permit the manufacturers to visit Kaesong to inspect their equipment, which has been idling for months and faces damage from humidity during the rainy season, and take part in "consultations."
In response to Seoul's proposal of government talks first, the North said it will send a three-member delegation led by Pak Chol-su, who heads the North Korean body in charge of the complex. But it wanted the talks to take place at the complex to highlight the problems there and asked the South to send some staff first to clean up.
The government here rejected the North's proposal and instead suggested meeting in Panmunjom or on the cross-border Dorasan immigration office in Paju, Gyeonggi Province.
The North also wanted the Kaesong manufacturers to come along, but the South insisted on discussing the matter at the talks.
"I believe President Park Geun-hye did not want to send citizens to the North before their safety is completely guaranteed," one official here said.
North Korea finally accepted the South's proposals in the evening. Pundits speculate that Pyongyang decided to put up no further obstacles because a previous attempt at cross-border talks last month ended acrimoniously and there is a great deal of international pressure on the North to show it is ready for dialogue.
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