S. Koreans in North Korea pay respects to ancestors to mark Chuseok

SEOUL, Sept. 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korean workers at the inter-Korean factory park in North Korea's border city of Kaesong marked the Chuseok holiday away from home Thursday by jointly holding ceremonies to pay respects to their ancestors.

The Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee (KIDMAC), which supports South Korean businesses in the factory park, said it held joint Chuseok rites for 80 to 90 workers who stayed there.

Chuseok, the Korean version of Thanksgiving, is a major holiday in both Koreas. On the day, Koreans visit their hometowns to hold ceremonies honoring ancestors, as well as sharing news, food and gifts.

The joint industrial complex, which was shut down in early April amid high military tensions, reopened on Monday. It is home to 123 South Korean garment and other small-scale labor-intensive plants with 53,000 North Korean workers hired.

No North Koreans reported to work on the day, KIDMAC officials said.

After the joint Chuseok services, the South Korean workers enjoyed traditional Korean pastime games and specially prepared food, they said.

"The event was carried out in a light hearted atmosphere as many people were relieved that recent South-North negotiations reached broad understanding on how to ensure sustainable growth of the complex," a KIDMAC official said.

Under a new deal with South Korea, North Korea agreed not to take any action again that could result in the closure of the industrial complex for non-economic reasons. The two sides are moreover engaged in talks to set up safeguards that will make it hard for Pyongyang to take unilateral action to disrupt operations.

Negotiations are underway to internationalize the factory park as well as introduce measures that will strengthen the rights of South Koreans workers to receive legal counsel in case they are detained for breaking North Korean rules. Other measures being discussed call for easing access to and from Kaesong and strenghtening communications links between Kaesong and the outside world.

Seoul government officials said that as of Thursday, there were a total of 168 South Koreans staying at Kaesong.

They said normal operations are expected to resume Friday.

Insiders said that operations at Kaesong have reached 55-60 percent of their full capacity.

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