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Seoul extends review on businessmen's request to visit Kaesong complex

North Korea 14:03 January 16, 2019

SEOUL, Jan. 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will extend its review to next week to decide whether to allow local businessmen's request to visit the inter-Korean industrial complex in the North's border town of Kaesong, the unification ministry said Wednesday.

Last week, around 180 businesspeople who once operated plants at the industrial park requested state approval for their trip there Wednesday to check facilities they left behind when it was abruptly closed in 2016.

"We have verbally notified the Kaesong businessmen of our decision. Relevant measures will be made today or tomorrow to extend our review," Baik Tae-hyun, the ministry's spokesperson, told a regular briefing.

Any trip by South Koreans to North Korea requires government approval and the North's consent, as the Koreas technically remain in a state of war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

Baik said more time is needed for consultations with related government organizations to make a decision.

A ministry official earlier said that the businesspeople's travel to Kaesong itself does not violate sanctions, but it cannot be seen completely separate from the issue of reopening the industrial complex, which would be subject to global sanctions.

The review process for such a trip usually takes seven days to complete but can be extended once for another seven days, which means the ministry will have to decide on the latest trip request no later than Jan. 25.

Opened in 2004, the Kaesong complex was hailed as a successful cross-border economic cooperation project until it was abruptly halted by the then conservative Park Geun-hye government in retaliation for the North's nuclear and missile provocations.

In his New Year's Day speech, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said that he is willing to reopen major inter-Korean projects, including the industrial park, without any preconditions.

Meanwhile, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said Wednesday that the government is not at a stage to review the resumption of the Kaesong complex or the Mount Kumgang tour program, another key suspended inter-Korean project, for now.

In this file photo, taken Oct. 25, 2018, the Kaesong Industrial Complex, an inter-Korean factory park in the North Korean border city of Kaesong, is visible from a South Korean observatory. (pool photo) (Yonhap)

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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