Published : 2013-09-04 14:47
Updated : 2013-09-04 14:47
South and North Korea engaged in detailed negotiations Wednesday on ways to reform management rules of the suspended joint industrial park in the communist country, protect investments and strive for ways to internationalize the complex.
The two sub-committee meetings that began in North Korea at 10a.m. come after both sides agreed on Aug. 14 to reopen the Gaeseong Industrial Complex in the North, and inked a deal last Thursday to create a new joint management committee.
The joint committee, co-chaired by officials representing Seoul and Pyongyang, is made up of four sub-committees, and will receive administrative assistance from a permanent secretariat. The committee will be in charge of running the industrial complex, which remains the main economic link between the two countries, just north of the demilitarized zone (DMZ).
A full committee meeting held Monday failed to make serious headway as the two sides were unable to resolve the critical issue of when the complex will be fully opened for business.
Before the North unilaterally pulled its 53,000 workers from the park in early April that effectively shut down the complex, it was run by the North's General Bureau for Central Guidance to the Development of the Special Zone.
Related to the meetings, Seoul's Ministry of Unification said officials at the management reform sub-committee will touch on safeguards to protect investment at Gaeseong, and revise rules to prevent future work stoppages for non-economic reasons.
At the internationalization sub-committee, the two sides will seek ways to attract foreign investment that can raise the stature and competitiveness of the industrial complex that is home to 123 South Korean companies.
"Results of the talks will be forwarded to the second joint committee meeting set to take place next Tuesday when officials will try to reach an agreement on issues where there are no differences and carry out further discussion if more deliberations are needed," said ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk. However, he said it is unlikely that details of the sub-committee meetings will be released to the press since they are only working-level negotiations that can lead to agreements being signed at the joint committee.
Besides the ongoing meeting, the Koreas will hold two other sub-committee meetings on Thursday that will touch on the safe movement of personnel and materials over the DMZ and the safety of South Korean workers who have to stay at the complex for days at a time. Officials will also deliberate on the lifting of restrictions on the restoration of a military hotline along the west coast that the North cut in late March, along with wider access to communications devices, the Internet and customs inspections.
Reconnecting the hotline is seen by Seoul as key to pushing forward the reopening of the factory complex.
"From Aug. 18 South Korean technicians have done what they could to make repairs, but moving forward will require the hotline to come back on line," a government source said, who declined to be identified. He said if the communication issue is resolved than the normalization of the Kaesong complex may be possible around the Chuseok or Thanksgiving holiday on Sept. 19.
Pyongyang has pledged to reconnect the communication line since July but has not done so, with some speculating that the communist country may be trying to use it as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the South.
"There is a chance that the North Korean military is reluctant to reconnect the line, which is holding up the process," said Yang Moo-jin, a political science professor at the University of North Korean Studies.
Meanwhile, the ministry said that 560 businessmen visited the complex during the day to inspect facilities and prepare factories for production once negotiations have been concluded.
It added that 48 South Korean nationals were at the Mount Kumgang resort on the east coast of North Korea to repair venues for the Sept. 25-30 family reunions for those separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. Of those at the scenic resort, 29 arrived Tuesday and stayed the night making them the first to do so since Pyongyang evicted employees from a Hyundai Asan Corp. factory in August 2011 after officially taking legal steps to confiscate all South Korean property totaling some 480 billion won (US$436 million). The other 19 joined them there Wednesday and the party is expected to stay there until the family reunions take place. (Yonhap News)