South Korea has agreed to a North Korean proposal for official talks on reopening the Kaesong joint industrial zone, which had been closed due to tensions between Seoul and Pyongyang.
The South Korean Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement on Thursday that Seoul “positively views North Korea’s proposal on official talks.” “We hope that South and North Korea can build trust through this opportunity.” According to the statement, South Korea will announce the date and agenda of talks later. Earlier in the day, the North Korean Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea issued a statement saying, “We propose holding talks between authorities of the North and the South for the normalization of the operation in the Kaesong Industrial Zone (KIZ)….” Kaesong was launched inside North Korea in 2003 to boost ties between the two neighbors. There are 123 South Korean companies in the complex, employing both South and North Korean workers. Pyongyang blocked access to the site and withdrew its 53,000 employees in May. South Korea also pulled out the last of its workers on May 3. Seoul has paid 300 billion won (about USD 270 million) in emergency compensation to investors in Kaesong who had to shut down their firms. The Korean Peninsula has been locked in a cycle of military rhetoric over the past few months. The rhetoric escalated when the United States and South Korea held joint military exercises in April, with the participation of US nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 stealth bombers. North Korea censured the drills and warned Washington and Seoul against a “preemptive attack,” which could develop into an “all-out war.” On June 1, South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Seoul and Washington would maintain a strong alliance in the face of what they described as potential threats from North Korea.