N. Korea proposes Kaesong talks, Seoul may agree

June 6, 2013 at 6:35 AM
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PYONGYANG, North Korea, June 6 (UPI) -- North Korea Thursday proposed official talks with South Korea on the Kaesong inter-Korean industrial sector where operations were suspended in early April.

South Korea's Ministry of Unification, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, said the Seoul government was "considering the proposal in a positive light," Yonhap News reported.

Operations at the 10-year-old industrial complex in the North Korean border town of Kaesong, which is the only economic link between the two Koreas, were suspended in early April after North Korea, in continuation of its threats against South Korea, pulled its 53,000 workers and banned the entry of South Korean representatives and supplies into the complex. South Korean efforts to start a dialogue to resume operations at the complex have not succeeded thus far and most of its representatives staying at the complex had since returned home.

Thursday's proposal, issued by North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea and carried by the official Korean Central News Agency, said: "We propose holding talks between authorities of the North and South for the normalization of operations at Kaesong and the resumption of tours to Mount Kumgang on the occasion of the anniversary of the June 15 joint declaration."

The joint tourism project to the Mount Kumgang resort has been suspended since a South Korean tourist was shot to death there by a North Korean guard in 2008.

Yonhap said the latest North Korean move comes after the South Korean government insisted it would accept talks only at government level.

North Korea also said if its proposal was accepted, it would reestablish the Red Cross hotline channels through the truce village of Panmunjom, which the North snapped earlier this year in response to joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises. Relations between the two sides have considerably worsened since the North conducted its third nuclear test Feb. 12.

The June 15 declaration, mentioned in Thursday's proposal, refers to the 2000 summit meeting between late South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, which led to bilateral cooperation and promotion of economic ties.

Yonhap quoted North Korea as saying the talks can also deal with such issues as allowing the reunion of families separated by the Korean War (1950-53), which have not been held for three years.

The Kaesong complex was being operated by 123 South Korean firms. Output from the Kaesong complex, which began operations in 2004, had totaled $2.05 billion at the end of last year and had been a source of much economic benefit to North Korea.

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