As Kaesong talks begin, new ‘no-sail’ zones set

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As Kaesong talks begin, new ‘no-sail’ zones set

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Kim Young-tak, senior representative for inter-Korean dialogue at the South Korean Unification Ministry, leaves the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine office in Paju, Gyeonggi, just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, yesterday morning to go to the inter-Korean industrial complex in Kaesong, North Korea. By Kim Seong-ryong

Officials from the two Koreas sat down yesterday to discuss the state of their joint industrial site, just days after North Korea launched artillery into the Yellow Sea near South Korean waters, heightening tensions on the peninsula.

Even while the dialogue went on, North Korea designated four additional “no-sail” zones off the west coast, military officials in Seoul said yesterday. They cover areas 5.8 miles west of Gyodong Island located just north of the Northern Limit Line. The new off-limits zones are effective until 8 p.m. today. The North had declared two such zones last week.

The first government-level meeting of the year between the Koreas is meant to address how to improve the Kaesong Industrial Complex. But yesterday, representatives from Seoul and Pyongyang struggled even to narrow differences about the agenda.

Late last month, the two Koreas held a three-day conference on Kaesong as a follow-up to their joint trips through industrial bases in China and Vietnam in December. During that meeting, the two sides agreed to talk in February. However, by press time last night they remained far apart on what needs to be discussed.

The Unification Ministry said the South wants to address facilitating travel, customs clearance and communication for South Korean workers in Kaesong, and building dormitories for North Korean workers there. The North is pushing its demand that monthly wages for North Korean employees be increased from $55 (64,000 won) to $300 a month. More than 100 South Korean firms hire about 42,000 North Koreans in Kaesong.

The two sides remain far apart on cross-border trips. Currently, South Koreans must sign up for travel to the North only during designated time slots between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. The South wants to eliminate these restrictions so that South Koreans can travel at any time during a given day. North Korea countered that this and other border issues must be discussed at military-level talks. The North had asked that a military meeting be held on Jan. 26, but the South said it should take place after the Kaesong talks.


By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]

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