July 6, 2013 in Nation/World

Koreas begin talks on border factory

Two countries shut it down as tensions rose in April
Youkyung Lee Associated Press
 

SEOUL, South Korea – Delegates from North and South Korea began talks today on restarting a stalled joint factory park that had been a symbol of cooperation between the bitter rivals.

The Kaesong industrial zone, just north of the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas, was the centerpiece of inter-Korean projects hatched during a previous era of warming ties.

But it was closed in April as tensions rose between the rivals when South Korea held military exercises with the U.S. troops not far from the border, which led to North Korea pulling its 53,000 workers out of the industrial park in protest. South Korea then ordered its managers to leave as well, against their wishes.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which is in charge of relations with North Korea, said the two sides began the working-level talks at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the DMZ.

The two agreed to discuss retrieving products that the South Korean managers left behind at the industrial complex in North Korea and inspecting the facilities. They will also discuss restarting work at the park.

The park, which brought together North Korean labor and South Korean capital, resulted in nearly $2 billion a year in cross-border trade. It was the last remaining joint project between two Koreas as relations soured during the past five years.

The closure meant a loss of salary for tens of thousands of North Korean workers employed in factories run by 123 South Korean companies, and a loss of goods and orders for business managers who relied on Kaesong to churn out everything from shoes and watches to cables and electrical components.

The talks today come after a protocol disagreement last month resulted in the Koreas calling off what would have been the first senior-level meeting in years.

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