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(LEAD) Seoul stresses need to reopen Kaesong complex

All Headlines 15:49 February 10, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS biz association's demand in last 3 paras)
By Yi Wonju

SEOUL, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- The shuttered inter-Korean industrial complex in North Korea's border city of Kaesong must reopen to help bring lasting peace to the Korean Peninsula, the unification ministry said Monday, marking the fourth anniversary of the closure of the factory park.

In 2016, Seoul closed the Kaesong Industrial Complex in retaliation against the North's fourth nuclear test. Efforts to resume the complex since then have made little progress amid a protracted stalemate in denuclearization talks.

"The government maintains the position that it is certainly necessary to resume the Kaesong Industrial Complex as a means to improve inter-Korean relations and to build lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula," Yoh Sang-key, the ministry's spokesperson, said in a regular press briefing.

"The government will continue to cooperate with the international community and create conditions favorable for the resumption of the Kaesong complex," he added.

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.

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 concerned that the resumption of such projects, which would give Pyongyang badly needed hard currency, could undermine the global sanctions regime against Pyongyang when little progress has been made in their nuclear talks.

Meanwhile, an association of businesspeople who once operated factories in the industrial park held a rally in front of the U.S. Embassy in central Seoul on Monday, demanding Washington stop hampering such inter-Korean issues.

"North Korea policy is a matter of our sovereignty that should be determined by us," the association said. "If (the U.S.) really wishes peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula, it should spare no support, rather than block inter-Korean cooperation."

"The first step that the (South Korean) government should take for cooperation between the South and the North should be to immediately announce the reopening of the Kaesong industrial complex and allow businesspeople to enter there to prepare for the resumption of its operation," it added.

(LEAD) Seoul stresses need to reopen Kaesong complex - 1

julesyi@yna.co.kr
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