North, South Korea agree to reopen Kaesong joint industrial zone

South Korean troops work a checkpoint on the road leading to North Korea's Kaesong complex in this file photo.

Story highlights

  • Nations agree that zone will no longer be affected by political situations
  • North Korea had suspended operations at the industrial zone in April during tensions
  • It's not clear when the complex will reopen

North Korea and South Korea agreed Wednesday to reopen the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a joint manufacturing zone that the North shuttered amid high tensions in April.

It wasn't immediately clear when the zone -- considered to be an important source of hard currency for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's regime -- will reopen.

As part of the agreement, both governments said that the zone's operation would no longer be "affected by political situations under any circumstance."

"I hope that the agreement today will be a chance for South-North relations to make a new start," South Korean President Park Geun-hye said after the deal was revealed.

The announcement came after multiple rounds of talks with the South, aimed at getting the shuttered factories at Kaesong back up and running.

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Four months ago, North Korea expelled South Korean workers and suspended activity at the zone, which sits on the North's side of the Koreas' demilitarized zone, as it unleashed a torrent of threatening rhetoric toward South Korea and the United States.

But the tensions have since eased, and the generally secretive North recently allowed a large Western media contingent to cover the 60th anniversary of the armistice that stopped the Korean War in 1953.

Wednesday's agreement also calls for a joint panel to discuss compensating South Korean companies that were hurt by the shuttering.

About 53,000 North Koreans worked at more than 120 South Korean companies at the complex, seen as a key symbol of inter-Korean cooperation. It produced hundreds of millions of dollars worth of goods yearly.

The closure was the zone's first since its debut nine years ago.