North Korea grants South Korea access to Kaesong industrial zone | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 28.05.2013
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Asia

North Korea grants South Korea access to Kaesong industrial zone

Pyongyang has granted South Koreans access to Kaesong, the joint industrial zone closed in April amid heightened military tensions. Despite the gesture, neither country has agreed on the terms of renewing talks.

North Korea said it would allow South Korean businessmen to visit the Kaesong industrial zone, according to a statement released on Tuesday by Pyongyang's official news agency. Anticipating skepticism from Seoul, the message ensured that no one would be harmed.

"The South [does] not need to worry about their safety," the statement said.

"If they still do not feel reassured, they may send with them members of the Committee for Operating the Kaesong Industrial Zone," it said, referring to the South Korean state agency that supervises the complex.

It wasn't clear when the South Koreans were meant to be allowed to visit the premises of their businesses in Kaesong.

The last South Korean employees left Kaesong earlier this month. Their departure followed a suspension of operations tied to the threat of an armed conflict between the neighboring countries.

Kaesong emerged nearly a decade ago as a means toward fostering unification between the two countries. The complex houses 123 South Korean firms and employees over 50,000 North Koreans.

When the United Nations imposed harsher sanctions on Pyongyang in response to a nuclear test, the communist country's leader, Kim Jong-Un responded with threats of a nuclear strike on Seoul and Washington. In a further step, he drew Kaesong into the confrontation, abruptly withdrawing 53,000 employees and cutting off the official telephone lines to Seoul.

Seoul approved the trip on Tuesday, according to the news agency AFP. However, it rejected Pyongyang's suggestion of renewing talks during the businessmen's visit, urging the North instead to enter into talks with Southern officials only.

kms/pfd (AP, AFP)