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N. Korea accepts Seoul's call for Kaesong committee talks

North Korea on Friday accepted South Korea's call to hold working-level talks next week to improve the overall competitiveness of the inter-Korean factory park in Kaesong.

The Ministry of Unification said Pyongyang notified the South through the Kaesong Industrial Complex joint management committee secretariat that it wants to hold three subcommittee meetings next Wednesday and Thursday.

"The North proposed talks on three sub-panels related to investment protection, internationalization and rules governing people staying in Kaesong," an official said.

The investment and internationalization panel will be held on Wednesday, with the talks aimed at enhancing rights of workers to be held on the following day. Pyongyang did not set a date for holding a meeting on travel, communications and customs, which are some of the more sticky subjects between the two countries.

"The North said it will contact the South on a separate date for the travel and communication sub-panel meeting," said the official, who declined to be identified.

He said Seoul welcomed the move by the North and expressed hope that the travel and communications meeting will be held in the near future.
The meeting will be the first to be held since Sept. 26 and comes two days after the South formally urged the North to engage in talks aimed at revising rules governing all aspects of operations at the joint industrial zone that recently opened after a hiatus of more than four months.

Under an agreement reached on Aug. 28, the two sides are obliged to hold sub-panel talks every month, but the North boycotted the contact last month.

All operations at Kaesong that first started churning out products in late 2004 came to a screeching halt after the North unilaterally pulled out all of its workers in early April citing military and political provocations by the South.

At present, there are some 123 South Korean companies with factories in Kaesong, although three have said they may pull out in the face of an uncertain future.

Suspensions of talks to change rules needed to fuel growth in Kaesong could have contributed to the gloom and raised the possibility that other companies may opt to sell assets in the North Korean border town and leave. (Yonhap News)