Kaesong complex to reopen next week, two Koreas agree

Sept. 10, 2013 at 11:36 PM

KAESONG, North Korea, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- The shuttered Kaesong industrial complex will reopen next week, North and South Korea announced Wednesday in another sign of easing of tensions between them.

The jointly run industrial park in the North Korean town of Kaesong near the border between the two countries has remained closed since April when tensions on the Korean Peninsula were at their worst, resulting from North Korea's third nuclear test in February. Intense negotiations to resume operations there had been going on in recent months.

South Korea's Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said the decision to reopen the decade-old Kaesong facility, the only economic link between the two sides, came after night-long negotiations between the two sides.

Under the agreement, South Korean firms represented at the site will be allowed to restart operations after a trial run on Monday, Yonhap News reported. The complex, designed to promote ties between the two nations, came into being following the 2000 historic summit of their leaders, the report said.

"The two sides have effectively reached an understanding on creating administrative measures and safeguards that can transform Kaesong into a globally competitive industrial park," a ministry source told Yonhap. He said he hoped the agreement would help lead to the building of bilateral trust and sustainable growth in cross-border relations.

Operations at Kaesong stopped after North Korea unilaterally pulled its 53,000 workers from the complex, citing political and military provocations from South Korea, Yonhap said.

The announcement said the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee and the North's General Bureau for Central Guidance to the Development of the Special Zone will separately discuss the issue of unpaid wages for North Korean laborers who worked several days in April before all operations came to a halt.

The two sides also agreed to create a dispute arbitration panel and concurred on easing access to the complex by introducing radio-frequency identification devices. Prior to that steps will be taken to make it easier for businessmen to move across their demilitarized zone, Yonhap said.

The two sides also agreed to hold international investor relations sessions to promote the participation of other countries in the complex.

Currently, there are more than 120 South Korean factories represented at Kaesong, whose products are exported to the South. The operations used to generate about $80 million in wages for the North Korean workers.

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