Lawmakers make rare trip to Kaesong Complex

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Lawmakers make rare trip to Kaesong Complex


Eight South Korean lawmakers from both ruling and opposition parties wave to the media yesterday before heading to the Kaesong Industrical Compex in North Korea from the Inter-Korean Transit Terminal at the border village of Paju, Gyeonggi. [AP/YONHAP]

Eight South Korean lawmakers made a rare cross-border visit to the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the North yesterday morning in order to meet with company officials and tour the inter-Korean industrial park.

Both ruling and opposition lawmakers crossed the heavily armed border yesterday morning and returned to the South in the afternoon.

“In an effort to develop the Kaesong Industrial Complex into the world’s best industrial park, we need to look around the current labor situation, working conditions and maintenance of equipment and facilities,” said Kim Choong-whan, a ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker.

“Although today’s visit was a working-level one, we hope it can foster the development of inter-Korean cooperation and promote talks in the near future.”

The visit, authorized by the North Korean regime, is the third trip by South Korean lawmakers to the border city during the Lee Myung-bak administration, following a group of Democratic Party lawmakers in 2008 and then-ruling Grand National Party Chairman Hong Joon-pyo’s trip in 2011. It is the first time both ruling and opposition lawmakers have visited the North together since the Lee administration began.

According to the lawmakers, they had a luncheon with officials of the South Korean companies in the industrial complex, but no meetings were held with North Korean representatives.

“The South Korean officials we met in the complex asked for a string of measures to revitalize the complex,” said Democratic United Party representative Park Joo-sun after he returned to the South.

“To deliver on their requests, we will meet with the unification minister this evening for talks.”

According to Park, the officials demanded an expansion of authorization for construction inside the complex; employment of 23,000 additional North Korean workers, adding to the current 50,000; financial benefits in the wake of the worldwide economic downturn; and the designation of products made within the complex as official trade commodities for the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement.

“It’s the first visit since the May 24 sanctions against the North [that prohibit most visits and aid to North Korea after the Cheonan sinking],” Park said. “We hope this short trip will be an opportunity to soften inter-Korean relations.”

By Kim Hee-jin []
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