Pyongyang rejects Seoul’s proposal for Kaesong talks

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Pyongyang rejects Seoul’s proposal for Kaesong talks

Pyongyang once again rejected Seoul’s proposal for a meeting to allow businessmen from the South to withdraw their products and assets from the closed Kaesong Industrial Complex, calling it “a despicable trick.”

An unnamed spokesman of the General Bureau for Central Guidance to the Development of the Special Zone, a North Korean organization in charge of the inter-Korean factory park, told the official Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday night that the South Korean government’s proposal for a dialogue is “provocative, reckless words.”

“This is just a despicable trick to sway public opinion and hush up their responsibility for the crisis of the Kaesong Industrial District,” the spokesman said, cited by the KCNA.

Still, Pyongyang didn’t rule out the possibility of a talk, demanding “basic courtesy” toward them.

“If the South indeed intends to normalize business at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, they should stop talking about withdrawing materials or other communication facilities,” the spokesman said. “But they should come forward with a fundamental solution and stop their provocative words and confrontational misbehavior immediately.

“We once again remind them of whether the direction of further inter-Korean relations totally depends on the attitude of the Southern authorities.”

President Park Geun-hye ordered officials during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday to suggest to Pyongyang a bilateral negotiation so South Korean businessmen could retrieve finished products, components and machinery still stuck in the jointly run complex.

Following the order, the Ministry of Unification, in charge of all inter-Korean business, publicly proposed a working-level talk to Pyongyang in regards to the withdrawal of the materials.

“We indeed think it was regrettable for North Korea to unilaterally denounce the sincere proposal of the government,” Kim Hyung-suk, the ministry’s spokesman, said at a daily briefing yesterday. “In order to minimize the loss of the firms, North Korea should come to the negotiation table.”

Although all South Korean workers left the industrial park on May 3, the owners of the 123 Southern firms have not been able to extract their assets, due to Pyongyang’s entry ban on cargo, vehicles or people from the South, which it issued on April 3.

The South Korean government paid a total of $13 million in March wages to North Korean workers and taxes owed to the North.

But the South has not paid April wages for the workers, amounting to about $1.2 million, leaving the possibility open for further talks with Pyongyang.

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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