The two Koreas on Thursday hammered out an agreement on a joint committee to spearhead institutional improvement and tackle disputes over the Gaeseong industrial park.
The panel consisting of six members from each side will hold its inaugural meeting on Sept. 2, the Unification Ministry said. A permanent secretariat will be set up in the border city to “ensure the committee’s smooth operation.”
“They will discuss how to run the joint committee and its agenda,” a ministry official told reporters on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
“North Korea would put the complex’s reactivation at the top of the agenda, while we push for guarantees (against another suspension) for its future-oriented development, as one would expect from the process since April.”
The deal is seen as the first step toward the normalization of the factory zone, which the two sides agreed on early this month after a four-month freeze.
The panel must agree by consensus on the park’s normalization, reflecting Seoul’s efforts to block Pyongyang’s unilateral actions such as an entry ban and worker pullout, which it carried out in early April.
It will be co-chaired by Kim Ki-woong, director-general of inter-Korean cooperation district support at the ministry, and Park Chol-su, vice director of the North’s General Bureau of the Special Zone Development Guidance, who led a series of negotiations in Gaeseong. They plan to convene a quarterly meeting but extra consultations would take place when necessary.
Four subcommittees will also be installed to handle South Koreans’ access and stay; investment protection and management and operation; passage, communications and customs; and international competitiveness, respectively. They are supposed to meet at least once a month.
The Aug. 14 accord called on both sides to draw foreign firms to Gaeseong, upgrade rules on labor, tax, wages and insurance to international levels, craft incentives including lowering tariffs for exports, and hold briefing sessions for overseas investors.
Meanwhile, the two Koreas traded their respective lists of members of separated families for planned reunions on Sept. 25-30 at Mount Geumgangsan.
The South Korean Red Cross requested that its counterpart check the survival and whereabouts of 250 candidates. The North Korean Red Cross sent a list of 200 people through the Panmunjeom communication channel.
Both sides are expected to receive results on Sept. 13 and exchange the final lists three days later.
By Shin Hyon-hee (email@example.com