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Seoul to decide on biz people's trip to Kaesong complex after working-group meeting with U.S.

North Korea 13:36 March 14, 2019

SEOUL, March 14 (Yonhap) -- The unification ministry will take this week's meeting of the North Korea working group with the United States into consideration in determining whether to allow businesspeople to visit a shuttered industrial complex in North Korea, a ministry official said Thursday.

Last week, 179 people asked for government permission to visit the factory park in the North's border town of Kaesong to check equipment and facilities they left behind when the complex was closed in 2016 amid nuclear and missile tensions. It was their eighth attempt to visit there since its closure.

South Korea and the U.S. are to hold a working-group meeting in Washington on Thursday (local time) to discuss pending issues on North Korea, including the request for a North Korea trip.

"As we said that we will review the issue in consideration of the process of drawing understanding from the U.S. and the international community, (the outcome of the working-group meeting) will serve as a yardstick for making a determination," the official said.

The ministry earlier said that it has yet to decide on the business people's request to visit the Kaesong industrial park, adding that it will extend the review process until March 22.

This photo, taken from a South Korean border observatory on Feb. 8, 2019, shows the now suspended Kaesong Industrial Complex, an inter-Korean factory park in the North Korean border city of Kaesong. South Korea suspended the complex on Feb. 11, 2016, citing Pyongyang's fourth nuclear test and rocket launches. (Yonhap)

This photo, taken from a South Korean border observatory on Feb. 8, 2019, shows the now suspended Kaesong Industrial Complex, an inter-Korean factory park in the North Korean border city of Kaesong. South Korea suspended the complex on Feb. 11, 2016, citing Pyongyang's fourth nuclear test and rocket launches. (Yonhap)

South Korea is pushing to restart the Kaesong complex and a long-suspended tour program to the North's Mount Kumgang to facilitate negotiations between the U.S. and the North following the no-deal breakdown of their second summit last month.

The government also said that it will discuss with the U.S. preparatory work before the resumption of the two projects, possibly including a visit by the South Korean businessmen to the Kaesong complex.

The U.S., however, has since reacted negatively to the idea, with a senior State Department official flatly saying, "No," when asked if Washington is willing to consider waiving sanctions for a possible resumption of the Kaesong and Mount Kumgang projects.

On Wednesday, a high-ranking foreign ministry official said that Seoul will not push for the resumption of those cross-border projects hastily, saying that it will seek close consultations with Washington on the matter.

South Korea shut down the industrial park in 2016 after North Korea's missile and nuclear provocations. Tours to Mount Kumgang, on the North's east coast, were suspended in 2008 after a South Korean tourist was killed by a North Korean soldier.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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