SEOUL: North and South Korea held the first meeting yesterday of a committee tasked with reopening their Kaesong joint industrial zone — five months after it was shut down amid soaring military tensions.
The committee, comprising five officials from each side, sat down for talks in Kaesong at 10am, with the initial agenda focused on the timing for reopening the complex.
“We will try our best to reinvent Kaesong as an internationally competitive industrial complex where our firms can operate with no worries and foreign businessmen would also like to come,” Kim Ki-Woong, the head of the South’s delegation, said before leaving Seoul.
Established just over the North Korean side of the border in 2004 as a rare symbol of inter-Korean cooperation, Kaesong had come through previous crises on the Korean peninsula unscathed.
But in April, as tensions flared following the North’s third nuclear test, Pyongyang effectively shut down operations by withdrawing the 53,000 North Korean workers employed at the 123 South Korean plants.
Seoul yesterday also announced $6.3m in humanitarian funding for North Korea through the World Health Organisation, the second such aid package in just over a month.
The South’s Unification Ministry said it had also approved aid shipments to the North by a dozen South Korean civic groups worth 2.35bn won ($2.12m).
South Korea cut off government-to-government aid and trade with North Korea in 2010 after a series of incidents including the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel.
Indirect support also plunged, but has been revived under the “trust-building” policy of President Park Geun-Hye who took office in February.
A $6.0m dollar payment to the UN children’s agency working in North Korea was announced at the end of July.
A few weeks ago, the United Nations appealed for $98m to finance emergency food, health and sanitation projects being run by the five of its agencies with offices in Pyongyang.
The UN estimates that nearly 2.4 million North Koreans need regular food assistance and 28 percent of children under five suffer chronic malnutrition.
After several months of sustained military tensions following North Korea’s third nuclear test in February, Seoul and Pyongyang have recently made progress on addressing a number of suspended cross-border projects.
South Korean history begins with the division of the Korean Peninsula in 1945. A civilian government was established in 1948, beginning the First Republic.