August 09, 2013 12:23
News that talks between the two Koreas about the Kaesong Industrial Complex will resume on Aug. 14 has provoked a welter of speculation among North Korea watchers, who are mostly optimistic that the industrial park will reopen.
If they agree to reopen the complex, troubled inter-Korean relations could improve significantly. Seoul and Pyongyang could then move on to talks about resuming meetings of families separated by the Korean War, and even package tours to the North's scenic Mt. Kumgang resort could be given another chance.
The key question is whether North Korea is truly prepared to make pledges for the safety of the complex. The talks could fail if North Korea continues to duck its responsibility for closing the joint industrial park or attempts to sidestep the issue of guaranteeing a more stable future.
Chung Young-tae at the Korea Institute for National Unification said this is the first time since the inter-Korean basic agreement in 1991 that Seoul has gained the initiative in talks with Pyongyang. Chung said Seoul must capitalize on the opportunity to turn the tide of North Korean brinkmanship and lead constructive talks.
Meanwhile, the Export-Import Bank of Korea said two South Korean companies that had operated factories in the Kaesong Industrial Complex have already accepted W5.5 billion (US$1=W1,113) in compensation for the closure of the complex. That means they hand over ownership of the facilities to the government and will not return to the industrial park even if it reopens.
The government on Wednesday in principle approved the payment of W280.9 billion in compensation to 109 Kaesong manufacturers by tapping into the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund. Whether they accept that payment or take their chances on a reopening is up to them.
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