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Gov't stresses working-level talks to resolve Kaesong complex standoff still valid


SEOUL, June 21 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's government said Friday that despite the cancellation of high-level talks to tackle larger outstanding issues, it still considers the proposal for discussions with North Korea to resolve the Kaesong complex as being valid.

The stance expressed by a Ministry of Unification official highlights Seoul's resolve to engage the North in a "trust building" process that could permit meaningful dialogue to take place in the long run.

The complex located just north of the demilitarized zone, halted operations on April 9 after the North ordered all of its 53,000 laborers not to report to work citing provocations by the South. Seoul in turn pulled all of its own people from the complex early last month severing the last economic link between the two sides.

"The working-level talks proposal remains open and it is our wish that the North accept the offer of dialogue," the official said on the conditions of anonymity.

Seoul has persistently called for working-level talks to deal with pressing issues such as the return of finish products and materials needed to make goods that were all left behind at the complex.

The official, however, said that his remarks did not constitute a move by Seoul to officially call for fresh talks with the communist country.

The remarks come after representatives from the 123 companies with factories in Kaesong issued an appeal asking authorities in Seoul and Pyongyang to start talks as soon as possible so operations can resume. They also asked for permission for engineers to visit the complex to inspect production machinery and other facilities.

They said that if no action is taken by July 3, they will take "serious steps" to prod all sides to find a middle ground. The representatives did not elaborate on what actions will be taken.

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