Exact opening date for symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation to be agreed upon later when a joint committee of the two Koreas meet based on five-point accord signed on Aug. 14
Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-seok announces South and North Koreas’
agreeing to the reopening of the Gaeseong Industrial Complex in North
Korea, shut down by North Korea unilaterally. (photos:MOU)
South and North Korea agreed on Aug. 14 to normalize the Gaeseong Industrial Complex (GIC), an inter-Korean industrial park and symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation located in Gaeseong, North Korea.
The two sides agreed to reopen the industrial complex at the end of working-level talks between Kim Ki-woong, South Korea’s chief delegate, and his North Korean counterpart Park Chol-su.
The agreement after day-long talks in Gaeseong, which is close to the DMZ in North Korea, to reopen the GIC was reached by the two sides 133 days after the complex was closed down.
The agreement said the two Koreas jointly will implement safeguards to prevent another shutdown of factories operated by South Korean companies there.
“Reopening will depend on how soon more than 120 South Korean companies operating in the park complete maintenance checkups on their facilities there,” an official of the Unification Ministry said, with no specific date set for when south Korean companies that operate plants in the complex will be able to resume their operations.
They also agreed to form a joint committee to resolve ongoing problems including compensation to South Korean firms that suffered from the shutdown.
“Once we complete the establishment of the joint committee, inspections, and refurbishment of manufacturing facilities, companies will be able to go back to the complex and restart operations,” the official said.
A map of the Gaeseong Industrial Complex.
They also agreed to globalize the industrial park by allowing more free business activities and attracting foreign companies to set up operations in the park, which in this case would be Chinese companies.
After the agreement was reached, President Park Geun-hye was quoted by her aide as saying that she hoped “South-North relations had gotten off to a good, new start.”
The agreement is expected to give Park’s “trust-building” strategy to improve inter-Korean relations a shot in the arm.
The complex has been closed for over four months since early April after the North pulled out all of its workers amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula following Pyongyang’s Feb. 12 nuclear test.
Both sides met six times last month to resolve the crisis, but no breakthrough had been made due to disagreements over which country was responsible for the current suspension, as well as safeguards to prevent another work stoppage.
During what South Korean officials called the “final” talks on Aug. 14, North Korea changed its policies and agreed that both sides should work together to never close the industrial park again.
South Korean officials said they accepted the North’s compromise, believing that it represents a step forward in ensuring smooth operations of the GIC.
Hopes were high for the latest round of talks, as it is expected to be a turning point in the future of the GIC.
Seoul stuck to its initial position that Pyongyang should solely take responsibility and implement legal and administrative safeguards before starting up the complex again, according to the ministry.
The seventh round of working-level talks started in the morning and continued until late afternoon. As of April, 123 South Korean businesses have factories at the complex, employing approximately 53,000 North Korean workers and 800 South Korean staff. Their wages, totaling some $90 million each year, had been paid directly to the North Korean government.
The GIC is a special administrative industrial region of North Korea. It was formed in 2002 from part of Gaeseong Directly Governed City.