South Korea contacted North Korea to make a “final” offer to resume talks on the resumption of operations at the suspended Gaeseong joint industrial zone, the South’s Unification Ministry said.
South Korea made the offer, which didn’t specify a date or place for the resumption of negotiations, over the Panmunjom border village phone line today, the ministry said in a text message to reporters. Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl Jae said yesterday the offer would be “final” and that a failure by the North to cooperate would force the South “to make an important decision to protect our businesses.”
Officials from the two Koreas have repeatedly failed to reach an agreement on how to prevent the North from unilaterally closing the industrial park. A scuffle broke out at the sixth meeting on July 25 when North Korea’s chief negotiator Pak Chol Su and about 20 officials entered a room of South Korean journalists to explain their position.
“North Korea continues to refuse to adhere to international standards,” Lee Jung-Hoon, a professor of international relations at Yonsei University in Seoul, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television today. “It refused to give in to any sorts of measures that would prevent any further accidents or problems arising out of Gaeseong.”
Shares of companies operating in Gaeseong rose in Seoul trading. Leather goods producer Emerson Pacific Inc. gained 7.2 percent and mobile phone parts maker Jaeyoung Solutec Co. surged 9.8 percent as of 12:42 p.m. local time. Good People Co., an underwear maker, increased 1.7 percent and battery and computer network power source maker Ehwa Technologies Information Co. rose 3.9 percent.
South Korean companies operating factories with North Korean workers in Gaeseong reported about 1.6 trillion won ($1.4 billion) in losses as of June 7, according to the results of a survey by the Unification Ministry released on June 25.
North Korea withdrew its workers from the zone April 8 to protest United Nations sanctions and U.S.-South Korean military drills, during a period of heightened tensions that included threats of preemptive nuclear strikes by Kim Jong Un’s regime.
South Korean President Park Geun Hye on July 27 repeated her call to North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions, as Kim Jong Un’s regime displayed its military might in a parade marking the 60th anniversary of the armistice that ended the Korean War. U.S. President Barack Obama stressed the country’s partnership with the South as “a bedrock of stability” in the Asia-Pacific region.
“I don’t think at this juncture North Korea is going to give up its nuclear weapons program and therefore we may be in for some more provocations at some later time this year,” Yonsei’s Lee said.
South Korea yesterday also announced $7.3 million of aid to North Korea. The government and five non-government organizations will spend 1.47 billion won, while the United Nations will spend $6.04 million through its UNICEF program, the Unification Ministry said.