Koreas kick off 4th-round talks on Kaesong complex

SEOUL, July 17 (Yonhap) -- South and North Korea opened their fourth round of working-level talks Wednesday on the resumption of a shuttered joint factory park, a major symbol of inter-Korean rapprochement.

During their first round of talks in early July, the two countries agreed to work toward reopening the joint economic project in the North Korean border city of Kaesong, forged after the landmark inter-Korean summit in 2000.

Operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, one of only a few inter-Korean exchange programs that survived former President Lee Myung-bak's hard-line policy toward the North, ground to a halt in early April as North Korea withdrew all its laborers there, citing threats coming from joint Seoul-Washington military drills in March.

After months of warlike threats that followed the suspension, the North accepted the South's proposal to hold talks on the normalization of the factory zone.

Three-man delegations from each side began the fourth round of their working-level dialogue at 10:00 in a South Korea-built management center located in the Kaesong factory park, said the Unification Ministry which handles inter-Korean affairs.

Seoul's delegation, headed by Unification Ministry official Kim Ki-woong, crossed the heavily fortified inter-Korean demarcation line at 8:30, along with a team of ministry staff and media pool reporters.

During their past talks, the countries exchanged only barbs as they set forth different conditions for resuming the complex.

The South has demanded the North promise not to unilaterally shut down the park again and come up with a legal system to protect the safety and property rights of South Koreans who have invested and worked in the park located in Kaesong, just north of the inter-Korean demarcation line.

The North, however, has continued to blame the South for the suspension of operations at Kaesong, according to the South Korean ministry.

During the Monday dialogue, the two Koreas are expected to struggle to bridge the gap in the conditions for reviving the park with an aim to draw up a final agreement to restart the factory complex which has sat idle for nearly three months.

Another team of 301 officials and workers from the South Korean firms that operate factories in the park will cross the demarcation line in order to bring out manufactured goods and production materials from their factories.

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