Have tensions cooled? North and South Korea meet to discuss reopening jointly run factory complex

Kaesong shut down in April amid heightened tensions in the region
  • @johnmatthewhall

Representatives from North and South Korea will meet later today to discuss reopening a jointly run factory complex which shut down earlier this year amid heightened tensions in the region.

In a sign that hostilities may have decreased on the Korean peninsula, inspectors and negotiators will visit Kaesong after both countries indicated a desire to restart work at the factory.

The Kaesong factory complex, which sits just inside North Korea and forms the country’s last remaining major cooperation project with South Korea, ceased activity in April at the height of tensions that saw Pyongyang issuing threats to attack its southern neighbour as well warnings to the US.

Those threats were issued in response to widespread anger over nuclear tests that North Korea conducted on February 12.

South Korea insists it requires assurances that North Korea will not halt operations again, ensuring work at the 120 factories that make up the complex can continue freely regardless of diplomatic conflicts.

Kaesong combines South Korean technology and cheap North Korean labour, employing over 53,000 people from the highly secretive state. It is believed to be a vital source of revenue for North Korea – a driving factor in Kim Jong-un to push to reopen the complex as soon as possible.

Sun Ho, who led the South Korean delegation, said his team plan to accomplish “developmental normalisation” of the complex “in accordance with common sense and international rules”.

Another official at the Unification Ministry said: “The weekend marked the first step, but the difficult part starts now.”

Although South Korea is seeking assurances about the project’s stability, North Korea is making its own demands over Kaesong – insisting staff there receive a pay rise.

That demand that to a number of South Korean factory operators to threaten to abandon the project altogether and move their equipment elsewhere.

A spokesman representing electronic and machinery makers in the complex said: “Kaesong must be reopened or [the factories] have to move elsewhere”

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