North ignores South’s offer of talks on Kaesong

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North ignores South’s offer of talks on Kaesong

North Korea ignored South Korea’s proposal for holding talks to transform the jointly run Kaesong Industrial Complex into an international business zone, while the regime reconfigured a ministry to attract foreign investment to other areas in the country.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which is in charge of all inter-Korean cooperation and business, said in a statement yesterday that Pyongyang did not reply to a request made by Seoul on June 9 to have official talks to discuss the internationalization of the Kaesong factory park, where about 52,000 North Korean workers are employed at factories run by South Korean business owners.

“We proposed on June 9 the fifth meeting of the South-North Joint Committee for Kaesong Industrial Complex on June 19, today, but North Korea has sent no reply as of today,” the ministry’s statement read. “North Korea is showing a passive attitude to our proposal, mentioning the inter-Korean situation, and our government’s policy-making in North Korean affairs.”

Located in the city of Kaesong in North Korea, the complex was shut down between May and September 2013.

In April 2013, North Korea decided to pull all of its workers out of the complex, angered by UN Security Council sanctions in the aftermath of a nuclear weapons test in February.

It also said it was insulted by South Korean news reports saying it needed the money it made from the park.

When both Koreas finally agreed to reopen the complex last August, they pledged in an agreement to hold meetings between officials at least once a quarter regardless of the current political situation.

South Korea is eager to turn the 10-year-old complex, which is home to production facilities of 125 South Korean companies, into an international factory zone by attracting investment from other countries.

It sees this as a way to prevent North Korea from shutting it down again when relations deteriorate between Pyongyang and Seoul.

But the two Koreas haven’t even agreed on earlier plans to improve the infrastructure at the park, such as bringing in Internet and mobile phone access.

Potential investors from other countries also want legal safeguards to prevent North Korea shutting down the park again.

Meanwhile, North Korea reconfigured one of its ministries in an attempt to attract more foreign investment to other parts of its country.

The official Korean Central News Agency reported yesterday the Supreme People’s Assembly, the rubber-stamp legislature, promulgated a degree turning the Ministry of Foreign Trade into the Ministry of External Economic Affairs.

In its English-language dispatch, the KCNA said the Joint Venture and Investment Commission and the State Economic Development Committee, which were under the Foreign Trade Ministry, will be merged into the newly created External Economic Affairs Ministry.

The new ministry will be in charge of overall management of drawing foreign capital and business, the KCNA said, without mentioning who will be the new minister.

The Joint Venture and Investment Commission was in charge of attracting foreign investment and the State Economic Development Committee was in charge of special economic zones in North Korea.


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



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