2 Koreas trade Kaesong accusations

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2 Koreas trade Kaesong accusations

The two Koreas yesterday engaged in a blame game over the latest breakdown of talks on reopening the joint factory complex in Kaesong, while still keeping a sliver of hope alive for a breakthrough by leaving the contact channel at the border open.

“North Korea must seriously think about presenting concrete measures to prevent further disruptions of business,” Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk said yesterday. “And it must show a change in its attitude.”

Kim’s remarks were in response to a statement from the North that was issued earlier yesterday morning. “The South cannot escape from its responsibility for bringing about disastrous consequences by derailing the Kaesong talks,” the state-run Korea Central News Agency said yesterday.

The two Koreas had their sixth round of negotiations on reopening the Kaesong Industrial Complex on Thursday, but it ended in a melee between officials from the two sides. Observers say it has become nearly impossible for either side to find a face-saving way to come back to the negotiation table.

In response to North Korean delegates’ abusive language toward South Korean officials and their unauthorized contact with the South Korean press on Thursday, Seoul said yesterday that it could make a “bold move.”

“The bold move is a warning toward the North that the Kaesong Industrial Complex could be completely shut down,” said Lim Eul-chul, a professor of North Korea studies at Kyungnam University.

Speculation also grew about what President Park Geun-hye’s next move will be.

“An assurance from the North that there won’t be a similar incident and the normalization of the industrial complex are the clear position of the South Korean government,” a senior Blue House official said yesterday.

Another South Korean official said Park’s response will be different from previous administrations.

“In the past, the South accepted the North’s demands when it persisted,” he said. “But it won’t be so easy this time.”

Despite the breakdown of the Kaesong talks, the two Koreas seemed to have no intention of completely walking away. The North maintained its telephone hotline at Panmunjeom yesterday.

North Korea observers said the situation could be saved if Seoul and Pyongyang decide to discuss assistance from the South for flood victims in the North, or possible reunions of separated families for the Chuseok holiday in September.

As dark clouds settle over the Kaesong talks, businessmen who operate factories at the complex expressed their frustration. About 20 of them visited the Ministry of Unification yesterday morning and afternoon.

“When the two Koreas failed to reach a deal in the previous talks, we still had hope because there would be another meeting,” said Han Jae-gwan, head of an emergency committee of the businessmen.

“Now, we have no hope.”

BY LEE YOUNG-JONG AND SER MYO-JA [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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