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N.K. official stresses Seoul's DMZ peace park plan tied to Kaesong success

All Headlines 11:11 August 11, 2013

SEOUL, Aug. 11 (Yonhap) -- A senior North Korean official stressed that Seoul's plan to build a peace park in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) will be dependent on the success of the inter-Korean factory park in Kaesong, a businessman with close ties to Pyongyang said Sunday.

In a meeting with reporters after his recent 11-day trip to the North, Park Sang-kwon, the honorary chairman of Pyeonghwa Motors Corp., said Kim Yang-gon, Pyongyang's point man on cross-border relations, told him that the peace park and Kaesong Industrial Park issues are interconnected.

"Kim made it clear that if the Kaesong complex does well, so will other plans to develop the DMZ," Park said.

He said that Kim pointed out that Kaesong is effectively located along the demarcation line and argued that with the future of the industrial complex in doubt it is impossible to talk about other projects.

Pyeonghwa Motors was set up as a joint venture between South Korea's Unification Church and the North, and has since been transferred to a North Korean firm. The company can churn out 2,000 vehicles per year.

The peace park was first proposed by South Korean President Park Geun-hye during her visit to the United States in May. The plan calls for turning part of the four-kilometer-wide buffer zone that separates the two Koreas into an international park that can contribute to peace and stability in the region.

The Korean-American said the head of the United Front Department of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea made the remark in talks held in the North Korean capital after Park was personally welcomed by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The North Korean leader thanked Park for his dedication for promoting economic exchange at a gathering to mark the 60 anniversary of the Armistice Agreement that halted the 1950-53 Korean War.

Work at the factory park has been stopped since early April after the North pulled out all of its 53,000 workers, citing heightened tensions over political developments and joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises.

Six rounds of talks in July made little headway as the two sides wrangled over safeguards being demanded by Seoul. South and North Korea agreed to meet on Wednesday for another round of negotiations to iron out differences.

South Korea has maintained that the North must give solid assurances that it will not close down Kaesong in the future, regardless of political and military developments.

The North has insisted that it cannot give such assurances and called for the immediate resumption of operations and warned the park can be taken over by its military. It said last week that it will lift all restrictions it unilaterally imposed on the movement of traffic and people, and pledged to guarantee safe passage of South Korean workers to Kaesong.

Park, meanwhile, said that he hopes all negotiations make headway that will not only permit normal operations at Kaesong, but the Mount Kumgang resort that has been closed since 2008.

The businessmen said that he still provides counseling for the running of Pyeonghwa Motors and other joint ventures in the North, and wants to expand into the retail sector once South-North relations improve.

He also said that the North in recent years has been paying considerable attention to building up its tourism sector with the military giving up air fields and even hotels in an effort to attract foreign visitors.

yonngong@yna.co.kr
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