South and North Korea on Tuesday began operating a new border entry system for a joint factory park in the North's border city of Gaeseong, Seoul's unification ministry said.
Several South Koreans were to enter the Gaeseong Industrial Complex at around 10 a.m. using the radio frequency identification system, the first access via the new method, according to the Ministry of Unification, which handles inter-Korean affairs.
Earlier this month, South Korea completed the RFID system, a data transfer system to facilitate travel to and from the industrial complex, and has since conducted a test-run.
The electronic system, aimed at making South Koreans' access to the joint complex easier, is expected to allow factory managers here to visit the park and return home at any time on days they are permitted to cross the border, according to the ministry.
Until now, Seoul has had to fax a list of names a day before any trip to the North, which would then allow those on the list to cross the border only during a designated time, an obstacle to the overall competitiveness of the complex.
"After the two-week test-run with everyday commuters to and from the Gaeseong park, the government will check possible technical issues and then fully implement the system after consultation with Pyongyang," a ministry official said.
The Seoul government expects the launch of the new system to serve as a chance for the two Koreas to resolve other pressing issues on communication and customs in a swift fashion.
Along with the RFID system, ways to simplify the customs process for products produced at the Gaeseong park and forms of communication between Gaeseong and the outside world have also been on the table during three rounds of talks of the joint Gaeseong management committee so far, according to ministry officials.
"Next week, the two Koreas are scheduled to hold working-level talks for communication issues, and the customs matters are also under discussion," another ministry official said.
The joint industrial park of Gaeseong, the last-remaining symbol of inter-Korean economic cooperation, is home to some 120 South Korean companies that hire more than 44,600 North Koreans.
The project serves as a major legitimate revenue source for the impoverished communist country. (Yonhap News)