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Reopening Kaesong park likely to act as 'driver of dialogue': think tank

North Korea 14:17 June 25, 2019

By Koh Byung-joon

SEOUL, June 25 (Yonhap) -- Reopening a now-shuttered inter-Korean industrial complex in North Korea could encourage cross-border economic cooperation and also act as a "driver of dialogue" on the Korean Peninsula, a global think tank said Tuesday.

The International Crisis Group, a Belgium-based think tank, called for the United States to drop its "maximalist" approach of opposing the reopening of the factory park in the border city of Kaesong until the North's complete denuclearization, saying it is "counterproductive" in peace and nuclear talks.

"(The reopening of the Kaesong park) could act as a driver of dialogue between the parties to the Korean Peninsula crisis and encourage further economic and political cooperation. It would also present an opportunity to test the hypothesis that North Korea is committed to changing its economy for the better," the report said.

"To be sure, Washington is bound to be deeply uncomfortable with any deal that creates a source of hard currency revenue for Pyongyang before it has completely renounced its nuclear program but adherence to that sort of maximalist position is likely to be counterproductive," it added.

This file 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 operations at the complex on Feb. 11, 2016, citing Pyongyang's fourth nuclear test and rocket launches. (Yonhap)

Launched in 2004, the Kaesong Industrial Complex was born on the back of a peace mood created after the first-ever inter-Korean summit between South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2000.

It was hailed as a symbol of inter-Korean economic cooperation and a successful cross-border project that combined South Korean capital and technology with cheap labor from North Korea.

Its operation, however, came to an abrupt halt in February 2016, when the Seoul government decided to shut it down to punish the North for its nuclear and missile provocations.

Seoul wants to reopen the industrial park in the hope that it could advance inter-Korean relations. President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed in their summit last September to resume the operation of the Kaesong complex when conditions are satisfied.

Washington, however, is opposed to any such inter-Korean economic cooperation for fear that it could undermine the global sanctions regime against Pyongyang when little progress has been made in their nuclear talks.

The report emphasized that the industrial complex benefited not just North Korean but also South Korean firms, saying that such information could help gain public support for reopening the Kaesong complex.

"Information about how much a reopening could benefit South Korean firms may help sustain public support for ongoing talks that could help bring about that result," the report said.

"Should the complex reopen, it presents a new opportunity for deepening North-South economic cooperation that can help cement ties between the two nations and create a counterweight to future escalatory cycles," it added.


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