Skip to main content

Koreas to hold talks on reopening Kaesong complex

By K.J. Kwon, CNN
July 4, 2013 -- Updated 1421 GMT (2221 HKT)
South Korean troops stand at a checkpoint on a road leading to North Korea's Kaesong Industrial Complex in April.
South Korean troops stand at a checkpoint on a road leading to North Korea's Kaesong Industrial Complex in April.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Talks set to be held at building on North Korean side of neutral border village
  • Joint industrial complex at Kaesong closed in May amid increasing tensions
  • Some $2 billion worth of goods have been produced in Kaesong since operations began in 2005

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- Pyongyang has agreed to South Korea's offer for working-level talks on reopening the suspended joint industrial complex at Kaesong, the South Korean Unification Ministry said.

The talks are scheduled to be held at 10 a.m. Saturday (9 p.m. Friday ET) at Tongilgak, an administrative building on the North Korean side of the neutral border village of Panmunjom.

Kaesong, which is a bellwether of North-South ties, was closed this spring -- a casualty of increasing tensions between the two Koreas after the North warned that war could erupt.

Each side will have three-member delegations, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency said, citing the Seoul government.

Waiting for workers to leave Kaesong
North Korea pulls workers from complex
Report: North Korea launches missiles
Kim Jong Un tours coast with $7M yacht

"The agreement came after North Korea, revising its earlier stance, did not insist that South Korean businessmen should be allowed to visit their plants in Kaesong at the same time or ahead of the government contact," Yonhap reported. "South Korea maintained that government contact should precede any visit to Kaesong by South Korean businessmen."

The North wanted the talks to be held at Kaesong and with South Korean businessmen permitted to accompany the delegation, proposals the South rejected.

Seoul's proposal for talks came a day after North Korea invited businessmen from South Korean companies to return to the zone to check on their facilities and equipment.

The talks "were in consideration of the damages to the companies operating in Kaesong after three months of suspension and the beginning of monsoon season," Kim Hyung-suk, South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesman, said in a briefing. "The Kaesong issue can only be resolved through dialogue by government authorities."

The operation was completely shut down in May when the last remaining South Korean workers left the facilities, but work had been winding down for about a month amid heightened tensions. In April, North Korea restricted South Korean workers' access to the zone. Workers had to leave when supplies such as food, water and raw materials were cut off.

Read: Nuclear weapons: Who has what?

The North-South tensions seemed to be easing somewhat after Pyongyang agreed to high-level talks with the South in June. Those talks were called off at the eleventh hour after disagreements over the level of the delegates who would represent each side.

On Wednesday, North Korea also restored the Panmunjom communication hotline with the South, which had been cut off repeatedly over the past four months.

Read: Pondering Pyongyang: Beijing's problem child

"North Korea is probably feeling an unprecedented level of diplomatic isolation with pressures coming from the international community. It is also fully aware of the value of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which provides a considerable amount of hard foreign currency," said Kim Tae-woo, former president of the Korea Institute for National Unification.

"But stirring tensions, then going back to dialogue, is part of North Korea's usual tactics. We don't need to attach too much weight to this easing of tension," he added.

North Korea already had barred South Korean workers from entering the complex before May. In 2008, access was restricted after a human rights group distributed propaganda leaflets via balloon into North Korea. South Korean workers were blocked again in 2009 during an annual U.S.-South Korean military drill.

Some $2 billion worth of goods have been produced in Kaesong between initial operations in 2005 and the end of 2012, according to the South Korean Unification Ministry.

The average wage for North Korean workers in Kaesong Industrial Complex is $134 per month, according to the South Korean ministry. North Korean authorities take about 45% of their wages for various taxes.

CNN's Diana Magnay and Joe Sterling contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT)
Where do hip young things hang out in Taiwan?
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0118 GMT (0918 HKT)
The interior of the Formosa Boulevard Mass Rapid Transit Station in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.
Stunning stations where your first priority won't be finding the nearest exit.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 1043 GMT (1843 HKT)
A 30-year-old woman has been charged with attempting to kill a baby police say spent five days down a drain before being discovered by cyclists.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
If it wasn't for a comic's skit, Bill Cosby would still be America's favorite father, says expert.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Obama orders the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration in decades, prioritizing the deportation of "felons, not families."
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 2106 GMT (0506 HKT)
Fighters loyal to ISIS are now in control of Derna, a city on Libya's Mediterranean coast.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2319 GMT (0719 HKT)
China and likely other countries have the capacity to shut down the U.S. power grid, says the NSA.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1945 GMT (0345 HKT)
The founder of a U.S. nonprofit that works with returning soldiers is named CNN's Hero of the Year.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
A Syrian cleric condemns ISIS and its execution of U.S. hostage Peter Kassig.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 1729 GMT (0129 HKT)
TV anchor wears the same suit for a year. Female colleague wears new outfit daily. Who gets criticized?
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 1239 GMT (2039 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT