11th-Hour Agreement Saves Kaesong Industrial Complex

      August 16, 2013 10:03

      North and South Korea agreed Thursday to reopen the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

      Officials meeting in the industrial park produced an accord including a pledge from both sides to prevent future shutdowns, security guarantees for workers and assets, steps to attract foreign investment, and an inter-Korean committee to oversee the complex.

      The agreement came 133 days after the complex was shut down after North Korea closed the border to South Korean staff and vehicles.

      Kim Ki-woong (left), the chief South Korean delegate, shakes hands with his North Korean counterpart Pak Chol-su after signing an agreement about the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the North Korean city on Wednesday. /News 1

      The main sticking point of negotiations was that the South demanded the North take responsibility of the shutdown and promise to prevent a recurrence. In the final agreement, Seoul and Pyongyang both promise to ensure that political factors will not affect the operation of the industrial park and to guarantee "normal operation."

      But a government official here said although Seoul is included in the parties who are responsible for the normal operation, "it contains specifics that only the North would violate," like security guarantees for workers and assets, "and that signifies the North in effect admitted responsibility."

      The two sides agreed to form a joint committee to oversee the park and to compensate the manufacturers for losses and damage in case illegal incidents occur.

      They will also try to attract foreign investment. "With the new agreement, we have safeguards to prevent any similar incident resulting from unilateral decisions by North Korea, and there is a possibility that the park can become an international manufacturing center," said Kim Ki-woong, the chief South Korean delegate at the talks.

      Pundits hope the agreement will lead to further improvements in cross-border relations and is a first step in President Park Geun-hye's "trust-building" plans.

      Seoul and Pyongyang are expected to discuss a resumption of package tours to North Korea's scenic Mt. Kumgang resort and reunions of families separated by the Korean War. The tours were halted after a North Korean soldier shot and killed a South Korean tourist there in 2008.

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