North Korea will allow a group of South Korean lawmakers to visit a jointly run industrial park amid a deadlock in efforts to reconcile the two countries, a legislator said.
Members of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs will travel to the Gaeseong site on Oct. 30 after North Korea today approved the visit, Kim Sung Gon, a lawmaker from the opposition Democratic Party, said by phone, citing a notification from the South Korean government.
The trip would be the first by a South Korean lawmaker since 2011 and signals the North’s willingness to improve ties with the South, Kim said. Relations are in “a lull” after the North last month canceled reunions of families separated by the Korean War, South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl Jae said at a briefing yesterday.
“We hope the visit can provide momentum for the two countries to jump-start their efforts to reconcile,” Kim said. “We’d also like to see what difficulties South Korean companies face after the park reopened.”
In another sign that the Kim Jong Un regime is trying to ease tensions, North Korea agreed to return six South Korean nationals held in the North. The repatriations will be carried out tomorrow, the South’s Unification Ministry said in an e-mailed statement without giving more information.
The Gaeseong Industrial Park, located just north of the border, reopened on Sept. 16 about five months after North Korea withdrew its 53,000 workers when tensions spiked between the countries. More than 120 South Korean companies have factories at the nine-year-old park.
Citizens of the two Koreas are banned from visiting the other side without approval as the countries remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce.
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