An inter-Korean panel is set to open its first meeting in Gaeseong on Monday to iron out differences over infrastructure enhancement, investment protection and other thorny issues crucial for reopening the industrial park.
The focal point is settling when the assembly lines will be back online. Pyongyang calls for swift reactivation, while Seoul stresses the need for measures to prevent the North from taking any unilateral actions like the entry ban and pullout of workers it imposed in April.
If the talks go smoothly, a partial resumption could be possible as early as this week given the infrastructure’s relatively sound condition despite a five-month freeze.
The talks will be led by the joint committee’s two co-chairs who also spearheaded a series of negotiations in the border city since July. They are the South’s Kim Ki-woong, director-general of inter-Korean cooperation district support at the Unification Ministry, and the North’s Park Chol-su, vice director of the North’s General Bureau of the Special Zone Development Guidance.
Another four officials from each side will jointly head four subcommittees on South Koreans’ access and stay; investment protection and management and operation; passage, communications and customs; and international competitiveness, respectively.
The meeting came four days after the two Koreas forged a deal on the formation and operation of the panel, which will set rules and settle disputes on a consensus basis. A permanent secretariat will be launched in Gaeseong to “ensure the committee’s smooth operation,” the accord said.
The committee appears to be the first step toward the normalization of the factory zone, which the sides conferred on early last month.
The Aug. 14 agreement 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, more than 600 businesspeople are also scheduled to cross the border to continue repair and maintenance of their facilities.
By Shin Hyon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org