S Korea-Kaesong talks

SEOUL, May 21 (Yonhap) -- South Korea urged North Korea Tuesday to accept working-level talks that could help normalize operations of a suspended inter-Korean industrial complex in Kaesong and alleviate local companies that are suffering due to the suspension.

The Kaesong Industrial Complex has been shut down since early April when Pyongyang withdrew all of its workers from the 123 South Korean companies there, citing the South's provocations against the communist country.

"To build trust related to the Kaesong Industrial Complex, there needs to be an effort to allow the local companies to retrieve production materials and finished goods which requires working-level talks," Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk said at a regular press briefing.

Since the North has not responded to Seoul's calls for talks Kim said it is difficult to determine Pyongyang's wants.

From April 11 onward, Seoul has persistently asked the North to come to the negotiating table to discuss outstanding issues, but has received no response.

Kim pointed out, however, that the communist nation has sent fax messages to several companies with factories in the border town stating that it wants the talks, so there should be no reason why it would then avoid the discussions.

The official also made clear that it was the North that pulled all of its workers from the complex on April 9, effectively bring operations at the complex to a halt. Kim said Pyongyang's attempt to blame the South for the temporary closure is unjust.

On the issue of the 243 South Korean entrepreneurs wanting to visit Kaesong, the spokesman said for the trip to take place the North must give assurances for their safety, and talks are needed to facilitate their passage over the demilitarized zone.

"Such a process requires working-level talks to take place," he stressed.

The entrepreneurs said they want to visit Kaesong on Thursday to inspect the facilities that were left behind.

Kim, meanwhile, reiterated that the recent string of missile launches by the North can only be deemed as being a provocation because such weapons pose a direct threat to South Korea.

<All rights reserved by Yonhap News Agency>