South Korea offers working-level talks with North Korea on Kaesong
South Korea has proposed working-level talks with North Korea on reopening the jointly-run Kaesong Industrial Complex.
Seoul made the proposal a day after Pyongyang said South Korean officials could visit the closed complex to inspect and maintain equipment.
Work at the factory park, which was a rare symbol of North-South co-operation, was halted in April amid high regional tensions.
Attempts to hold high-level talks last month failed on procedural grounds.
“The government wants talks to be held at the truce village of Panmunjom,” South Korea’s Ministry of Unification said in a statement.
“Seoul’s stance remains consistent and centres on government authorities resolving all outstanding issues through dialogue.”
It said the offer of talks was made via a North-South hotline that was cut by Pyongyang in June but has now been restored.
North Korea has yet to respond to the offer.
South Korea proposed that the talks take place on Saturday.
Prior to operations being suspended, there were around 120 South Korean businesses in the factory park, which had provided the North with a source of much-needed hard currency.
On Wednesday, North Korea said it would allow South Korean companies to enter the complex, which is located just inside the communist country, to protect their equipment from damage in the rainy season.
The offer came after some South Korean firms threatened to abandon the zone entirely and relocate their equipment.
A spokesman representing electronic and machinery makers in Kaesong had said: “Kaesong must be reopened or [the factories] have to move elsewhere.”
Pyongyang withdrew its 53,000 workers from the complex in April, apparently angered by tightened UN sanctions in the wake of its nuclear test in February, and annual South Korea-US military drills.
North Korea also prevented South Korean workers from entering the joint commercial zone.
The last South Korean workers left the zone on May 3.
In June, officials from North and South Korea agreed to hold their first high-level government meeting since 2007, focused on resuming operations at Kaesong industrial park.
However, the planned talks were suspended after the two sides disagreed on the composition of the delegations.
North Korea then proposed high-level talks with the US.
However, both Washington and Seoul responded coolly to the offer, with the US saying that Pyongyang would be judged “by its actions and not its words”.
Meanwhile, South Korea said that it would increase its cyber-security budget from 5 trillion won ($4.38 billion) to 10 trillion won ($8.76 billion), and train 5,000 cyber security experts.
North Korea has been blamed for previous cyber attacks on South Korea, including an attack on six South Korean banks and broadcasters in March that affected 32,000 computers.
Kaesong Industrial Zone:
- Launched in 2003, largely financed by the South to increase co-operation
- More than 120 factories employ North Koreans in manufacturing industries, with goods exported to the South
- Complex as a whole produced $470 million worth of goods in 2012 – the biggest contributor to inter-Korean trade
- South Korean companies pay more than $80 million a year in wages to North Korean workers