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Gaeseong firms prepare to reopen plants as Koreas talk
Publication Date : 22-08-2013
Businesspeople running plants in Gaeseong on Wednesday began preparing for their reactivation after a four-month freeze as the two Koreas exchange overtures on their industrial park and other cross-border projects.
The two sides agreed last week to take steps to reopen the factory zone such as setting up a new joint committee to discuss compensation for the firms, infrastructure improvement and other key issues.
The North offered a new draft accord governing the panel through the communication channel at the border village of Panmunjeom, which is under review by the Unification Ministry.
There is “no big disagreement” between the two sides but more discussions are needed to settle on “technical issues” such as the organiaation’s authority, the level of its chief, subcommittees, and the location of its permanent secretariat, a ministry official told reporters on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
Nearly 210 managers and workers from 65 electric, electronics, machinery and metal companies and their contractors crossed the border for repair and maintenance of their facilities that have been idle since early April. The firms are scheduled to visit Gaeseong by industry through August 30.
Also in the border city were 71 officials from the complex management committee, KT Corp., Korea Electric Power Corp., Korea Water Resources Corp. and other agencies who began overhauling infrastructure there last Saturday.
“The government is planning to support the businesspeople regardless of industry so that they can visit the North and continue checkups next week,” Unification Ministry spokesperson Park Soo-jin said at a regular media briefing.
Though the district’s normalisation is yet to be in store, the August 14 breakthrough was a relief for the firms suffering damages and boosted hopes for a resumption of other stalled inter-Korean programmes.
Businesses have reported collective losses of 1.05 trillion won (US$940 million) since Pyongyang in early April barred South Koreans’ entry to the town and pulled out its 53,000 workers over UN sanctions and South Korea-US military drills.
The tally was based on claims submitted to the ministry between May 1 and June 7 by the 123 enterprises operating assembly lines there and their 111 affiliates.
Meanwhile, Seoul on late Tuesday proposed talks with Pyongyang on September 25 to restart the tours to Mount Geumgang in response to the North’s apparent attempt to link Mount Geumgang with the family reunion by suggesting to discuss resuming the tour project this week.
While stressing the need to decouple the family reunion and tour issues, the ministry said the decision reflects its position that the two Koreas should “build trust and develop their relations step by step”.
The two sides have so far agreed to hold a meeting on Friday to arrange the first reunions of separated families in almost three years around Chuseok, the Korean Thanksgiving that falls on September 19. The venue for the talks is undecided yet.
“While implementing concrete measures for the future-oriented normalisation of the Gaeseong industrial complex, there is a need to successfully carry out family reunions, a principal humanitarian issue given the sad reality that old members of the separated families are passing away,” spokesperson Park added.