S. Korean lawmakers visit inter-Korean factory park

SEOUL, Oct. 30 (Yonhap) -- A group of South Korean lawmakers crossed the border into North Korea Wednesday to visit an inter-Korean factory complex in the communist country that has recently resumed operations after a five-month hiatus.

The 21 lawmakers from the National Assembly's Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee and their 26 support staff crossed the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas at 9:30 a.m. and are slated to return around 4 p.m., parliamentary and government sources said.

The trip marks the first time for lawmakers to visit the Kaesong Industrial Complex under the Park Geun-hye administration. Under the previous Lee Myung-bak government, lawmakers visited Kaesong on three different occasions.

The committee said the tour is part of the ongoing parliamentary audit and will involve being briefed by the head of the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee and holding meetings with South Korean businessmen who have factories at the factory zone.

Lawmakers are scheduled to inspect four companies that make clothes, shoes and parts for mobile phones, and look over social infrastructure facilities such as a water treatment center, power substation, clinic and fire station.

Parliamentary sources said the visit could facilitate cross-border relations that have soured in recent weeks and make it possible to transform Kaesong into a truly international production hub.

Operations at Kaesong, which started churning out products in late 2004, came to a screeching halt in early April amid a spike in tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

After drawn-out negotiations, Kaesong was reopened for business on Sept. 16, but production has stayed at 80 percent of capacity with some companies hard pressed to secure new orders.

Related to the trip, the Ministry of Unification said the North has so far not confirmed who will be present to greet the lawmakers.

Judging by past experiences, the North will likely send someone from the General Bureau for Central Guidance to the Development of the Special Zone, it said.

The lawmakers were accompanied by South Korea's Vice Unification Minister Kim Nam-sik along with two working-level officials from the ministry.

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