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SKorean lawmakers to visit factory park in NKorea

  • Associated Press
  • October 24, 2013 - 2:05 AM

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean lawmakers next week will tour a jointly-run factory park in North Korea that has been reopened after months of stalemate between the rivals, officials said Thursday.

The group will talk to South Korean managers working at the Kaesong industrial complex but will not meet with North Korean officials, said Jin Myung-gu, a secretary of Ahn Hong-joon, chairperson of the National Assembly's Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee.

Pyongyang approved the visit next Wednesday by 24 assembly members and their aides, Park Soo-jin, with the Ministry of Unification, said.

The Kaesong park just across the heavily armed border is the last remaining inter-Korean project from a previous era of rapprochement. It reopened last month after Pyongyang had withdrawn its workers in April during a period of unusually high tensions that saw North Korea threaten South Korea and the United States with nuclear strikes and vow to restart nuclear fuel production.

The park has not returned to full operations and tensions remain. The two Koreas have agreed to work to prevent another shutdown, including opening the park to foreign investors, but they've moved slowly.

An information session on Kaesong, originally scheduled for next week and aimed at introducing the factory park to foreigners, was canceled. Meanwhile, North Korea said it is building special economic zones to invite foreign investors.

South Korean companies that operate in Kaesong welcomed the lawmakers' trip, saying in a statement that lingering uncertainties about Kaesong are hurting business.

Many analysts say North Korea takes Kaesong's resumption seriously because it believes it could help draw outside investment and revive its struggling economy, one of leader Kim Jong Un's top stated goals. His other major goal is increased nuclear production.

But there are considerable outside doubts about whether foreign investors will risk operating in the North.

© 2014 Star Tribune