North and South Korea Move Closer to Reopening Gaeseong Complex

North and South Korea moved closer to reopening their jointly operated industrial park after reaching an agreement to form a joint committee to oversee the process.

Gaeseong was shuttered in April when North Korea withdrew its 53,000 workers amid tension with the South. After weeks of talks, the sides reached an agreement on Aug. 14 on reopening the site and forming a committee responsible for the complex.

The committee will convene its first meeting on Sept. 2 at the site and set up subcommittees to deal with more specific issues, according to a report today from the North’s state-controlled Korean Central News Agency. Gaeseong provides cheap labor for South Korean manufacturers there and is a source of hard currency for Kim Jong Un’s regime in the North.

“There doesn’t seem to be a particular obstacle ahead for Gaeseong, because the sides agreed to reopen it regardless of political circumstances,” Yoo Ho Yeol, a professor of North Korean studies at Korea University in the South, said by phone.

North and South Korea agreed earlier this month to resume reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. The sides are negotiating when they should hold talks on restarting South Korean tours to an eastern North Korean mountain resort. The tours stopped in 2008 when a North Korean guard shot and killed a South Korean visitor.

Tomorrow, a U.S. envoy on North Korean human rights will travel to Pyongyang at the invitation of the North to try to secure the release of an American detained there since November, according to the State Department. Earlier this week, a Chinese envoy to stalled international talks on the North’s nuclear arms programs visited Pyongyang and met with a senior North Korean officials, according to the KCNA.

“North Korea appears to have made up its mind that it will turn to dialog for the time being,” Yoo said.

Hundreds of South Koreans, including company officials with factories in Gaeseong, have visited the site since Aug. 17 to prepare for the resumption of operations, according to the Unification Ministry. No timetable has been set for when the complex will reopen.

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