Two Koreas begin talks on reopening Kaesong joint industrial zone

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 September, 2013, 4:35am

North and South Korea held the first meeting yesterday of a committee tasked with reopening their Kaesong joint industrial zone - five months after it was shut down amid soaring military tensions.

The committee, comprising five officials from each side, sat down for talks in Kaesong at 10am, with the initial agenda focused on the timing for reopening the complex.

"We will try our best to reinvent Kaesong as an internationally competitive industrial complex where our firms can operate with no worries and foreign businessmen would also like to come," Kim Ki-woong, the head of the South's delegation, said.

The meeting came on the same day that South Korea announced US$6.3 million in humanitarian funding for North Korea through the World Health Organisation, the second such aid package in just over a month.

The South's Unification Ministry said it had also approved aid shipments to the North by a dozen South Korean civic groups.

Established just over the North Korean side of the border in 2004 as a rare symbol of inter-Korean co-operation, Kaesong had come through previous crises on the peninsula unscathed.

But in April, as tensions flared following the North's third nuclear test, Pyongyang effectively shut down operations by withdrawing the 53,000 North Korean workers employed at the 123 South Korean plants.

The two Koreas agreed last month to work together to resume operations at the zone, which is an important source of hard currency for the cash-strapped regime in Pyongyang.