July 08, 2013 14:19
Officials from North and South Korea met at the border on Saturday and agreed in principle to reopen the Kaesong Industrial Complex. The two sides also agreed to hold additional negotiations Wednesday at the complex to discuss specific measures to allow production to resume and prevent another closure.
It was the first agreement with the North since President Park Geun-hye took office in February this year.
With the agreement, South Korean manufacturers can now enter the Kaesong complex from Wednesday to inspect and repair their production equipment and to collect finished goods and raw materials.
But more fundamental issues need to be addressed before reopening the inter-Korean industrial complex. They include a solid guarantee from the North that it will not use it as a political pawn, opening and closing it at whim. An agreement already exists between the two sides guaranteeing the safety of South Korean investment and personnel not only at Kaesong but also at the Mt. Kumgang resort, but North Korea has simply ignored it whenever tensions mounted.
Before the industrial park reopens, the Park administration must ensure that the North can no longer unilaterally scrap agreements it has signed with the South. Only then can the latest agreement serve as a first step for better inter-Korean relations for the president.
And it seems it got off to a good start as the South Korean delegation felt that the North is committed to tackling the Kaesong issue.
Rather than fixating on short-term progress, the government needs a long-term view to take North Korea in a right direction. North Korea for its part must realize that only South Korean businesses are willing to take the risk and invest in Kaesong, and that unilaterally closing it would mean increased isolation. This is a good time for the South to work on improving inter-Korean relations as the North is feeling increasing pressure from the international community to change.
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