The government will consider various factors before making a decision to permit a visit by businesspeople to the now-shuttered inter-Korean industrial complex, a unification ministry official said Wednesday.
A group of people who once operated plants at the industrial park in the North's border town of Kaesong earlier appealed for the government's approval for a trip to the complex next week.
They have pushed unsuccessfully to visit there six times to check their facilities left behind when it was abruptly closed in 2016 amid heightened cross-border tensions.
"The government shares the thought that it is necessary (for them) to visit the North for the protection of our people's property rights," Baik Tae-hyun, the ministry's spokesperson, told a regular press briefing.
"The issue of visiting the North, however, requires discussion among relevant government agencies, understanding from the international community and consultations with North Korea as well," he added.
With inter-Korean relations warming, demand for reopening the industrial park has been growing, but the government is constrained due to economic sanctions imposed on the North.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed in September to "normalize" the operation of the industrial park as well as the suspended tour program to Mount Kumgang as soon as conditions are met.
In his New Year's speech last week, Kim said that he is willing to reopen major inter-Korean projects, including the industrial park, without any preconditions, citing hardship being suffered by those businesspeople.
The Kaesong industrial park was hailed as a key symbol of economic cooperation between the Koreas as it combined South Korean capital and technology with cheap labor from the North.
South Korea shut it down in 2016 in response to the North's nuclear and missile tests. (Yonhap)