Two Koreas divided over resumption of Kaesong park

SEOUL, July 17 (Yonhap) -- South and North Korea failed to iron out differences over the resumption of a shuttered joint factory park during the morning session of their fourth working-level talks on Wednesday, Seoul officials said.

Three-man delegations from each country sat face-to-face for their fourth working-level dialogue in order to revive operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the namesake city in the North, which has remained idle for over three months.

The morning discussions, however, turned out to be only a repeat of the last two talks as both sides were unable to reach a compromise, refusing to budge on the conditions for resuming the joint factory park created after the landmark inter-Korean summit in 2000.

"Our side stressed that it is important that both sides share their perceptions of the nature of the suspension of the Kaesong Industrial Complex," Unification Ministry spokeswoman Park Soo-jin told reporters after the second discussion session in the morning.

Seoul urged the North to promise not to cause another closure of the complex and to take a respectful and constructive position to resolve the suspension issue, Park said.

But the North reiterated its previous stance that the factory zone should be normalized as soon as possible, saying the two sides remain apart on normalizing it, according to Park.

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 normalizing the factory park.

During their first round of talks in early July, the two countries agreed to work toward reopening the joint economic project, just north of the heavily fortified inter-Korean border.

"I will make efforts to have serious and effective discussions to solve outstanding inter-Korean issues," Kim Ki-woong, who heads the South Korean delegation to the talks, told reporters before leaving for Kaesong.

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.

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 as they try to draw up a final agreement to restart it.

As the inter-Korean working-level dialogue gets prolonged, analysts questioned the future of the joint industrial park, predicting that the on-going talks may not lead to the resumption of the park anytime soon, given the wide differences in opinions between the two sides.

Meanwhile, a team of 301 officials and workers from the South Korean firms that owns factories in the zone crossed the border to bring out manufactured goods and production materials from their factories.

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