South and North Korea will open a small business center with Internet connectivity in the joint industrial park of Kaesong as a first step in bringing the complex online, officials here said Sunday.
"We are planning to launch the basic level of Internet services at the Kaesong Industrial Complex starting in the first half of this year," an official of Seoul's Ministry of Unification said.
"Officials and employees in the North's border city will be able to use most of online services now available in South Korea," he added.
The landmark move in communication at Kaesong was made last week when Seoul and Pyongyang reached an agreement on how to connect the factory to the Internet, which would boost the productivity of firms operating there, clear a key obstacle in the way of potential foreign investment and boost linkage between the two Koreas.
"Considering the fact that workers there have to communicate via phone or fax machines to those in the South, the Internet linkage will boost efficiency, cut costs and guarantee security," the ministry official said.
As the initial step, the two sides plan to build a small-scale business center within the Kaesong park equipped with some 20 personal computers which connect to the Internet, according to the officials.
After a test-run period, the authorities will provide full-scale Internet services to each firm there, they added.
"Making online access available is also expected to attract foreign investment in the joint park. While some 10 foreign firms have expressed their willingness to make an investment, what they asked me for the first time was whether the Internet is available,"
another unification ministry official said.
As early as this month, KT, South Korea's top fixed-line operator and No. 2 mobile carrier, and North Korea's Post and Telecommunications Corp., plan to launch discussions on the details of setting up such services, according to the ministry.
Since last year, Seoul and Pyongyang have discussed on ways to boost the joint factory park, with a focus on launching Internet services, along with how to make South Koreans' access to the park easier and to simplify the customs process for products produced there.
As for the entry to the factory park, the two countries agreed upon the establishment of a radio frequency identification system, which has been on a pilot run since last month.
The Kaesong complex, 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, providing a major revenue source for the cash-strapped communist country.(Yonhap)