No response from North on Kaesong

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No response from North on Kaesong

North Korea had failed to respond to an offer from the South of a “final” round of talks on reopening the Kaesong Industrial Complex as of press time, with state media conspicuously silent on the proposal.

According to Seoul’s Unification Ministry, South Korea sent a fax on the meeting through liaison officials at the truce village of Panmunjom at around 10:50 a.m.

The message didn’t suggest a date or venue for the talks, only calling for an “immediate response” from Pyongyang, the ministry told reporters.

The Kaesong park has been shut since April. The six working-level dialogue sessions so far were all held in the General Support Center in the complex, except the marathon 16-hour first meeting, which took place at Panmunjom.

“As we already made clear yesterday in the Unification Minister’s statement, North Korea needs to provide assurances that it will never commit a unilateral shutdown in order for the Kaesong Industrial Complex to be constructively normalized, and must show a clear position on prevention [of such disruptions],” Kim Hyung-suk, Unification Ministry spokesman, said at a daily briefing.

South and North Korean liaison officials exchanged their regular communications through the Panmunjom channel as usual at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., according to the Ministry of Unification.

But North Korean officials didn’t mention the proposal either time, the ministry said.

South Korean businessmen who operate factories in Kaesong yesterday held another meeting with opposition Democratic Party lawmakers to discuss the situation. They agreed that Seoul should show a flexible attitude so their factories can open again, instead of insisting on the safeguard measures as the precondition.

South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae announced that Seoul would propose a last round of talks on getting the eight-year-old complex working again at a press meeting on Sunday.

The minister warned of “a grave decision” regarding the park if the offer is turned down, which many speculate would be permanently shutting down the last remaining symbol of Sunshine Policy engagement.

North Korea refused to pledge not to hold the complex hostage for political reasons, according to the Unification Ministry and the draft agreements that the North put forward.

Instead, Pyongyang negotiators demanded both Koreas take responsibility for the complex together, saying neither side should do anything to interrupt operations.



BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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