North overturns entry ban for 2 South Koreans

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North overturns entry ban for 2 South Koreans

North Korea on Friday lifted entry bans it imposed earlier this week on two South Korean officials involved in managing a jointly run factory park in the North.

Pyongyang did not offer a clear explanation on why it banned the officials from the Kaesong Industrial Complex on Wednesday nor why it decided to allow them to visit again, said Jeong Joon-Hee, a spokesman from Seoul’s Ministry of Unification. South Korean employees at Kaesong commuted normally across the border this week.

The industrial park, where about 120 South Korean companies employ more than 53,000 North Koreans, has been a critical source of income for the cash-strapped North since its establishment in 2004, during an era of rapprochement between the two rivals.

One of the men allowed back in, Choi Sang-chul, was the vice chairman of Seoul’s management committee overseeing the park. He had been involved in negotiations with the North over wages, taxes and fees. Jeong said Choi plans to visit the factory park on Monday.

The countries struggled for several months over wage levels for North Korean workers employed by South Korean companies at Kaesong before agreeing on a 5 percent increase in the minimum wage in August.

The two sides are currently negotiating land usage fees that South Korean companies at Kaesong must pay to North Korea for 2015. Under a previous agreement between the countries, South Korean companies at Kaesong were exempt from land usage fees for 10 years through 2014.

The two Koreas are still technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. AP

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