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Koreas fail to make headway on enhancing legal rights of S.Koreans in Kaesong

    (Yonhap) -- Working-level talks between the two Koreas aimed at enhancing the legal rights and protection for South Koreans working in the joint factory park in Kaesong failed to yield results, the government said Thursday.
   The unification ministry said the second day of sub-panel talks of the Kaesong joint management committee did not result in agreement on any outstanding issues.
   "It has been agreed to continue talks," the ministry in charge of all inter-Korean relations said in a press release.
   It said the secretariat of the Kaesong joint management committee will be tasked to arrange a date for the next meeting.
   The latest meeting was held in accordance with the Sept. 11 deal that calls for regular discussions to overhaul operational guidelines for the Kaesong Industrial Complex by year-end.
   A ministry official said earlier in the day that the latest talks will focus on ways to offer legal counsel and representation to South Korean workers who may be detained by the North for breaking its laws.
   He said guaranteeing such basic rights is important for the future development of the factory park.
   The joint management committee, which is in charge of setting rules and overseeing the running of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, has four sub-panels designed to bolster the global competitiveness of the special economic zone.
   The complex reopened in mid-September, more than five months after operations came to a halt due to Pyongyang's unilateral withdrawal of all its workers amid heightened inter-Korean tension.
   Before the suspension, the industrial zone, the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean cooperation, housed 123 South Korean factories that hired around 53,000 North Korean workers.
   Thursday's meeting came after Seoul and Pyongyang held two other sub-panel meetings the day before. These two meetings were the first to take place since Sept. 26.
   At the investment protection panel meeting, the two sides reconfirmed their earlier commitment to set up a dispute settlement body within three months.
   Seoul raised issue with the shortage of workers provided by the North and the country's tax codes, while Pyongyang brought up the problem of overdue wages and lack of accounting transparency by some South Korean companies.
   During the internationalization panel meeting, both sides reviewed options that can be taken to make the complex more competitive, although the South made clear that headway must be made to ease travel, communication and customs rules for Kaesong.
   The two Koreas agreed to hold an investor relations session on Oct. 31, but it was canceled when little headway was made in a separate sub-panel meeting to change rules governing movement in and out of Kaesong, and such issues as Internet connectivity.
    At present, the North maintains tight control over the movement of people and materials as well as communication from Kaesong and the outside world. South Korean workers are barred from taking their mobile phones to Kaesong.
    The North so far only agreed to hold sub-panel talks on investment protection, internationalization and legal rights, but it has not set a date for the travel and communication panel meeting.

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