Published : 2013-09-02 10:37
Updated : 2013-09-02 11:53
South and North Korea on Monday started talks on how to ensure the smooth running of their joint industrial complex to prevent another interruption from political or other non-economic factors.
The two Koreas agreed on Aug. 14 to reopen the suspended Gaeseong Industrial Complex in the North Korean border city of the same name and inked a deal last Thursday to create a new joint committee that will oversee operations at the inter-Korean factory zone, which had been previously run by a North Korean governing body.
The meeting between South and North Korea began at 10 a.m., and it marks the first ever joint committee talks aimed at creating guidelines for progressive development of a suspended factory park in the communist country and set a timetable for its full reopening.
At the start of the meeting represented by five officials from each side, South Korea's chief delegate Kim Ki-woong and his counterpart Park Chol-su expressed hope that progress will be made.
The committee is made up of four sub-committees, and a permanent secretariat will be in charge of running the industrial park that remains the main economic link between the two countries.
Before the suspension of operations in early April, the Gaeseong park was home to 123 South Korean factories and around 53,000 North Korean laborers. Pyongyang unilaterally pulled out its workers citing heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The joint committee, which gives Seoul equal say in the running of the complex, will prevent Pyongyang from disrupting operations in the future.
The Ministry of Unification in charge of all inter-Korean relations said that the meeting held at a Gaeseong complex support center in the North will concentrate on when to restart operations that have been shuttered for nearly five months.
Seoul has maintained that top priority must be given to preventing disruption to the normal business activities and to make changes to operating procedures to give the park international competitiveness.
The ministry said that opening the complex can take place after such deliberations have made headway.
Shortly before leaving for the North earlier in the day, Kim said every effort will be made so as to ensure that South Korean firms there can conduct business without worry and to allow the factory park to become internationally competitive.
"The aim (of the talks) is to allow Gaeseong to be reborn and to make it possible for foreign companies to set up operations there if they desire," the official said.
The North, on the other hand, has persistently called for an immediate opening and cited that many South Korean companies have already stated they can open factories this month.
Besides touching on guidelines and when the park may open, the two sides will deliberate on when the four sub-committees in charge of regulating and overseeing the movement of people, investment protection, communications and customs, and international competitiveness will hold their separate meetings and the joint secretariat will be created.
North Korean watchers in Seoul said that if the talks make headway, the complex may partially open, but if no progress is made, it may take time before operations resume.
Government insiders, who declined to be identified, said it may be premature to expect quick results at the talks.
"There is just not enough time to touch on all outstanding issues at the first meeting, and (we) predict it may be physically impossible for the heads of each sub-committee to hold one-on-one talks with their opposite numbers," he said, pointing out that it takes time even to control the wording in agreements.
The ministry, meanwhile, said that 615 businessmen and engineers from South Korean companies are in Gaeseong to look over facilities and work with North Korean workers to prepare for the reopening of their businesses. All are set to return to the South later in the day. (Yonhap News)