Chinese investors visit Kaesong park

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Chinese investors visit Kaesong park

North Korea invited a group of Chinese investors to its joint factory park with South Korea early this month, raising suspicions about its intentions amid strained inter-Korean relations, a government official said yesterday.

About 20 business executives, led by senior officials of North Korea’s state investment group, visited the industrial complex in the border town of Kaesong near the west coast on May 1, a Unification Ministry official in Seoul said.

More than 110 South Korean firms operate at the industrial park to produce labor-intensive goods by employing 42,000 cheap but skilled North Korean workers. The joint park, which began operating in 2004, is considered the last remaining major symbol of reconciliation between the divided Koreas.

“We’re not clear about what the North is trying to achieve by inviting the Chinese investors,” the Unification Ministry official told reporters on the condition of anonymity.

The official said the investors visited two companies in the factory park and asked general questions about their operations while being escorted by North Korean authorities.

Under an agreement with South Korea, North Korea is allowed to draw investors from other countries.

The visit comes after North Korea either seized or froze South Korean assets at a joint mountain resort on its east coast last month.

On April 9, North Korea said it would “entirely review” the Kaesong venture with South Korea if relations between the two sides do not improve.

Ties between the Koreas, which technically remain at war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, have frayed in recent weeks amid suspicions Pyongyang was behind the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship off the west coast on March 26.

North Korea denies any involvement and has vowed to respond with an unspecified military deterrent if South Korea brands Pyongyang as the culprit and retaliates, raising tension on the peninsula.

China is North Korea’s main political and economic ally.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visited Beijing last week to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao and agreed to bolster economic exchanges.

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