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Rival parties express hope over upcoming Kaesong talks


SEOUL, July 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's rival political parties expressed hope Tuesday that this week's talks between South and North Korea will lead to the normalization of a suspended joint industrial complex in the North.

The joint factory park in the North's border city of Kaesong ground to a halt in April when Pyongyang withdrew all its 53,000 workers from the complex.

Following months of tensions, the two Koreas agreed in principle last weekend to revive the complex and arranged to hold further talks on Wednesday to work out details.

South Korea has stressed that it will reopen the complex -- a key source of hard currency for the impoverished North -- only with Pyongyang's assurance that it will never again unilaterally shut down the factory park.

"We welcome the inter-Korean agreement on normalizing the Kaesong Industrial Complex," Rep. Choi Kyoung-hwan, the floor leader of the ruling Saenuri Party, said at a party meeting. "However, it is too early for optimism. Tomorrow's follow-up talks are extremely important in order to achieve true normalization."

Choi called for strict measures against the complex's shutdown, saying the damage to South Korean firms in Kaesong caused by inter-Korean political tensions or North Korean provocations should be minimized.

The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) also welcomed the tentative agreement, expressing hope that Wednesday's talks will lead to the normalization of the complex.

However, Rep. Jun Byung-hun, the DP floor leader, voiced reservations about the government's apparent plan to push for the complex's "internationalization," or opening up the factory park to foreign investment.

"The government is reportedly planning to discuss ways to internationalize the complex during tomorrow's follow-up talks, but (I'm) concerned that it could be hasty," Jun said at a party meeting. "What's urgent is not the internationalization of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, but its normalization."

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