SEOUL -- Officials of South and North Korea are scheduled to meet Wednesday to continue working out details of reopening the shuttered Kaesong industrial park, located just north of the demilitarized zone.
On Saturday, representatives from the two nations met at the truce village of Panmunjom, more than three weeks after planned high-level talks had failed over a protocol dispute.
The working-level meeting was proposed by South Korea last week after Pyongyang said it would allow business owners from the South to visit Kaesong -- which had been a joint project of the Koreas before being closed by the North -- to check on their equipment during the rainy season. The two sides also reopened an inter-Korean hotline at the truce village, signaling a thaw in relations.
The business owners are scheduled to visit the industrial park on Wednesday, the same day that talks are to resume after Saturday’s 16-hour meeting.
“As soon as the South and North are ready, the enterprises in Kaesong Industrial Zone will operate again,” South Korea’s Unification Ministry said in a joint statement.
The business park, which started a decade ago, was seen as a significant peace project that attempted to improve the two Koreas’ relationship, bringing together the South’s capital and the North’s labor.
It was also a significant source of hard currency for the communist regime, with 53,000 employees hired by 123 South Korean enterprises generating $2 billion a year.
Following weeks of escalating tensions and threats in protest of new United Nations sanctions and joint U.S.-South Korea military drills, North Korea pulled all of its workers from the site in April. South Korean managers also left, which resulted in an indefinite closure.
In Wednesday’s follow-up meeting, South Korea is expected to demand that the North guarantee it will never again shut down the industrial park, but there is little expectation that the North will agree to that.