South Korean President Park Geun-hye called Thursday for Italian firms to consider setting up factories in an industrial complex jointly run with North Korea as she discussed economic cooperation and other issues with Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta.
The bilateral summit took place in Russia's Saint Petersburg on the sidelines of a Group of 20 major economies' summit. Park said the two Koreas have agreed to reopen the factory park in the North's border city of Kaesong, adding they will ensure that investments in the zone will be guaranteed in line with international norms.
"Though it may not be easy for now, I hope Italian companies will have interest and take part" in the zone, Park said, according to the presidential office.
The summit was Park's first with a European nation since taking office in February.
North Korea brought the Kaesong complex, the last-remaining symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation, to a halt in early April by unilaterally withdrawing all of its workers from the zone in anger over American-involved military exercises in the South.
The case underscored the risks involved in doing business with the North.
In an about-face, however, the North had called for normalizing the complex, and agreed last month to reopen the zone. It accepted Seoul's demands that Pyongyang promise never to shut it down unilaterally again regardless of political tensions or other reasons.
The complex has been a key source of hard currency for the impoverished nation.
South Korea hopes to attract foreign firms to the complex so they might serve as a deterrent against North Korea taking unilateral action in the future.
During the summit with Letta, Park said the two countries can become good partners for economic cooperation, as Italy has powerful brands and technologies and South Korea has manufacturing power and distribution networks. She said the two sides can join hands and get into third-nation markets together.
Park also outlined her "creative economy" vision, her trademark economic growth strategy that calls for creating new business opportunities, industries and jobs through the fusion of information and communication technology, culture and other realms.
Combining Italy's power and knowhow in design, arts and culture with South Korea's manufacturing competitiveness would be a boon for both economies, Park said, adding that South Korea plans to hold a business forum on creative economy in the Italian city of Milan next year.
Letta also expressed hope for greater economic and trade cooperation with South Korea, outlining the "Destination Italy" policy that Italy plans to announce later this month in an effort to attract foreign investments by providing incentives for foreign investors.
The Italian leader also invited Park to visit the country.
Letta is one of a series of G20 leaders with whom Park plans to hold one-on-one meetings on the margins of the G20 summit. The others are German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Yonhap News)