Kim Ki-woong, South Korea's chief delegate, walks out of a conference room at Gaeseong Industrial Complex after the joint committee talks on Monday. (Yonhap News)
The two Koreas failed Monday to agree on the reopening date of the joint industrial complex in North Korea's border town of Gaeseong, but agreed to meet again later this week.
South and North Korea have hit a snag on how to ensure the smooth running of the complex and prevent political or other non-economic factors from disrupting future operations, officials said.
The two sides agreed to hold the next round of joint committee talks on Sept. 10 with sub-committee talks to be held on Wednesday and Thursday.
The two Koreas agreed on Aug. 14 to reopen the suspended Gaeseong Industrial Complex and inked a deal last Thursday to create a joint committee that will oversee operations at the inter-Korean factory zone. The previous committee had been run by a North Korean governing body.
The meeting between South and North Korea marks the first ever joint committee talks aimed at creating guidelines for the factory park's progressive development and setting a timetable for its full reopening.
"During the meetings, we have called for the restoration of military hotlines that run along the west coast, restoration of infrastructure and administrative rules and safeguards to prevent a recurrence of the work stoppage," said a ministry official who requested anonymity.
The official also said that Seoul asked for compensation for companies hurt by the work stoppage, noting it was the North's unilateral and unlawful action that halted operations five months ago. South Korean companies claimed losses reaching 1.05 trillion won ($956 million).
"The two Sub-committees on protection of investments and safeguards along with talks aimed at internationalization of the factory park will be held on Wednesday," he said.
The official added that sub-committee meetings to ensure the safety of workers, dispute settlements and the movement of personnel, as well as changes to communication, customs rules, are to be held on Thursday. Results to be reached at these sub-committee sessions will then be forwarded to the joint committee scheduled for next week.
He said the North concentrated on the immediate opening of the industrial complex.
The official said that despite the lack of progress this time, there is no need to be discouraged since negotiations take time.
"This is part of a larger process of talks," he said.
On the issue of creating a permanent secretariat under the new committee, the two sides have made meaningful headway that can resolve the issue in future talks.
The joint committee, which gives Seoul an equal say as the North in the running of the complex, will prevent Pyongyang from disrupting operations in the future, the ministry said earlier in the day.
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.
Shortly before leaving for the North earlier in the day, Kim Ki-woong, South Korea's chief delegate, said every effort will be made to ensure that South Korean firms there can conduct business without worry. Allowing the factory park to become internationally competitive is also a goal, he added.
"The aim 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 ministry, meanwhile, said that 615 businessmen and engineers from South Korean companies visited Gaeseong during the day 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. It said 701 South Korean entrepreneurs will visit Gaeseong on Tuesday. (Yonhap News)