Seoul, Pyongyang plan discussion of Kaesong

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Seoul, Pyongyang plan discussion of Kaesong

Officials from North and South Korea will hold talks next week on ways to follow up on their joint survey of overseas industrial parks last month, an official said yesterday. A 10-member delegation from each side visited Chinese and Vietnamese industrial complexes from Dec. 12-22 to explore ways to improve their joint management of a factory park in the North Korean border town of Kaesong.

“We had proposed the talks, and North Korea notified us that it wants to hold them to evaluate our trip to the areas,” a Unification Ministry official said, declining to be named.

The official added the two sides have agreed to hold the talks on Jan. 19 at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which is a major symbol of reconciliation following the first inter-Korean summit in 2000. The agreement is the latest sign that North Korea, which has bolstered its determination to raise the standard of living for its people this year, is moving to improve ties with the South. The two sides remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce.

Some 110 South Korean firms operate there with about 42,000 North Korean workers, producing mostly labor-intensive goods such as electronics, clothing and kitchenware.

South Korea’s chief delegate to the joint survey - the third of its kind since the complex opened in 2004 - said last month that Seoul and Pyongyang had reached a consensus during the trip that their joint park should become “internationally competitive.”

During the survey, the North paid attention to wage and insurance systems, according to the South, which was more interested in infrastructure and safety issues, tax benefits and customs systems. South Korean firms pay an average of $80 a month to North Korean workers in Kaesong. The payments are made directly to the North Korean government.

The itinerary included visits to Chinese factories run by such South Korean giants as steelmaker Posco and office equipment maker Sindoh Co., and to a Vietnamese handset plant operated by Samsung Electronics Co. The factories are located in Qingdao, in China’s northeast, and in Suzhou, a hub for China’s silk industry, as well as in Yen Phong in Vietnam. Yonhap

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