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(LEAD) S. Korea to send team to N. Korea to prepare for opening of liaison office

All News 17:55 June 07, 2018

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, throughout with planned trip to N. Korea by preparatory team)

SEOUL, June 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korea officials and civilian experts will visit North Korea this week to prepare for the opening of a liaison office in the North's border city of Kaesong, the unification ministry said Thursday.

The 14-member team, led by Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung, will leave for Kaesong Friday to inspect facilities, according to the ministry.

Last week, the two Koreas agreed to open the liaison office "at an early date" in anticipation of increased cross-border exchanges following their leader's summit meetings in April and May.

The group will also include officials from Hyundai Asan, which played a key role in past inter-Korean economic cooperation projects including a now suspended joint industrial complex in the North's western border city.

The two Koreas operated the joint industrial complex between 2004 and 2016. Combining South Korea's capital with the North's cheap and skillful labor, it was hailed as a successful example of economic cooperation between the two Koreas.

But South Korea closed the factory park in early 2016 in protest at the North's continued missile and nuclear provocations.

The opening of the liaison office is seen as a first step to implement promises their leaders made in the recent summits but raised speculation that the move might be a precursor to the resumption of the suspended joint industrial park in the same city.

Earlier, the ministry denied that launching the office in Kaesong is related to a possible resumption of the long-suspended operation of the joint economic complex.

The resumption of the factory operations would only be possible if multilayered sanctions imposed on the North in the wake of its repeated missile and nuclear provocations until late last year are eased.


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