South Korea offers talks with Pyongyang over jointly run factory park
The Grand Unification Bridge which leads to the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea, just south of the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas. Photograph: Han Jae-ho/Reuters
South Korea has resumed efforts to kick-start dialogue with North Korea, offering to hold talks with Pyongyang about reopening a jointly run factory park near the Demilitarised Zone that divides the two countries.
“The government wants talks to be held at the truce village of Panmunjom,” South Korea’s ministry of unification said in a statement, carried by the Yonhap news agency. “Seoul’s stance remains consistent and centres on government authorities resolving all outstanding issues through dialogue.”
The Gaeseong industrial complex has been shuttered since early April, when the North pulled all of its 53,000 workers from 123 South Korean companies there amid heightened tensions on the peninsula after the North’s third nuclear test in February and the resultant tightening of UN sanctions.
Swift talks sought
The statement went on to say that Seoul is calling for swift talks so as to reflect the difficulties encountered by companies with factories at the border town.
There was no immediate response from Pyongyang, but a day earlier the North said it would allow businessmen and members of the Gaeseong industrial district management committee to inspect production facilities at Gaeseong.
The communist country said that if the South sends word on when the visit will take place, it would implement necessary measures to ensure safe passage through the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas.
The two Koreas remain technically at war under a truce ending the 1950-53 Korean War conflict, but hopes were raised last month that the two sides would resume high-level dialogue for the first time in six years to ease tension.
Tensions were high in April after the North threatened the South with war and nuclear destruction.
The offer comes three weeks after their last attempt at dialogue collapsed over bickering about protocol, and it was made using a telephone hotline that was restored by the North late on Wednesday.
Before the shutdown there were around 120 South Korean small and medium-sized enterprises in the shared Kaesong industrial zone, which had provided the North with a source of much-needed hard currency.
There has been pressure by the factory owners to resume talks as they are running up major losses.