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(3rd LD) S. Korean team visits N. Korea to prepare launch of liaison office

All Headlines 19:19 June 08, 2018

(ATTN: RECASTS throughout with updated info)

SEOUL/PAJU, June 8 (Joint Press Corps-Yonhap) -- A group of South Korean officials and civilians returned from North Korea on Friday after visiting the border town of Kaesong to prepare for the opening of a liaison office, the unification ministry said.

The 14-member team headed by Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung traveled to Kaesong earlier in the day and checked necessary facilities that could be used for the operation of the liaison office, according to the ministry. They stayed in Kaesong until 4:30 p.m. before returning home.

The ministry said in a press release that most of the facilities the team checked appeared to be in good shape. But it noted that some of them, including the basement of a lodging building, were underwater and had some machines and equipment that were not operating or needed repairs.

"Based on the results of the inspection today and through consultations with relevant agencies and experts, (we) will draw up and enforce necessary measures, such as making repairs or planning more checks in order to launch the liaison office as soon as possible," the ministry said.

This photo taken by the joint press corps shows South Korean officials and civilians led by Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung (C) leaving for Kaesong on June 8, 2018, to inspect facilities for a planned inter-Korean liaison office. (Yonhap)

The on-site inspection came after the two Koreas agreed in a high-level officials' meeting last week to open the liaison office "at an early date" in anticipation of increased cross-border exchanges following the leaders' summit meetings in April and May.

Friday's visit marked the first time South Koreans had visited Kaesong since February 2016, when Seoul shut an inter-Korean joint industrial complex in the western border city following the North's missile and nuclear provocations.

The team also included officials from KT, a telecom carrier, and Hyundai Asan, which played a key role in past inter-Korean economic cooperation projects, including the now-suspended factory park.

The joint industrial complex, launched in 2004, combined 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.

The unification ministry denied Thursday that the liaison office is related to the reopening of the industrial complex, which it said would be considered in tandem with progress in denuclearization of the North.

Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said that one of the team's main tasks is to check the facilities necessary for daily work and life for South Korean personnel to be stationed in Kaesong once the liaison office starts its operations.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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