Published : 2013-12-19 20:06
Updated : 2013-12-19 20:06
Officials of South and North Korea met Thursday in the North’s border city of Gaeseong to discuss ways to further develop their joint factory park, the Unification Ministry said.
The working-level talks, the first since last week’s execution of leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle Jang Song-thaek, could help gauge whether the North is serious about the cross-border project.
The sides are expected to discuss how to enhance travel, communication and customs clearance for South Korean factory managers, the three major obstacles that Seoul says must be addressed to further boost their jointly run factory park.
The meeting came four months after the sides agreed to allow South Korean factory managers to use the Internet and mobile phones provided by South Korean operators across the heavily fortified border.
Currently, South Korean factory managers make international phone calls when they need to talk with their colleagues in Seoul.
The sides are expected to touch on the issue of attracting foreign companies to the factory park.
Also Thursday, a delegation of the world’s 20 major economies and international financial institutions were to cross the inter-Korean border to tour the factory park.
The foreign delegation was in Seoul to attend an international conference.
South Korea believes that the presence of potential foreign companies in the factory park could help deter North Korea from unilaterally shuttering the project, the only remaining symbol of inter-Korean cooperation.
The factory park, which marries South Korea’s capital and technology with the North’s cheap labor, serves as a major legitimate revenue source for the cash-strapped communist country.
The factory park resumed operations in September, more than five months after the North unilaterally closed it in anger over joint annual military exercises between South Korea and the United States. In August, Pyongyang pledged not to shut the park down again “under any circumstances.”
More than 44,000 North Koreans work at 120 South Korean firms operating in the park to produce clothes, shoes, watches and other labor-intensive goods. (Yonhap News)