(Yonhap) — The two Koreas on Wednesday effectively agreed on the final details of the creation of a new joint committee that will be in charge of running the Gaesong factory park in North Korea.
The move comes exactly two weeks after drawn-out negotiations were concluded to reopen the Gaesong Industrial Complex, which the North unilaterally shuttered in early April amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The official said exact details of the committee will be announced Thursday after all proceedings related to the agreement are completed.
“The signed document has yet to arrive, but the details of the pact have been ironed out through the exchange of documents,” an official at the Ministry of Unification said, requesting anonymity.
As outlined in the Aug. 14 pact, the committee will give Seoul an equal say in the running of the complex, which is the main economic link between the two countries, and should prevent the North from taking unilateral action to disrupt operations.
One-sided action taken by Pyongyang forced the complete work stoppage and resulted in upwards of 1.05 trillion won (US$942 million) in damages to the 123 South Korean companies with factories in the border town.
Without elaborating on details, the source said the committee’s role includes safeguarding Korean nationals who will work at the complex, protecting investment, internationalizing the Gaesong complex for business and creating a standing secretariat.
“It is likely that the committee will meet at least every quarter to discuss outstanding issues,” he said.
Seoul called for first working-level talks of the committee next Monday at the Gaesong complex, he added.
The first joint committee meeting will be an important barometer, as Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae told lawmakers earlier in the day that how the North approaches the talks on running Gaesong will determine the speed of the complex’s reopening. The policymaker declined to give a date on when Gaesong will be fully open for production.
In the agreement to normalize the complex, the two sides said the Gaesong complex will open once all necessary preparations are completed.
“From Seoul’s point of view, setting up safeguards is a key part of the preparation process,” another ministry insider said. He stressed that the talks will center on establishing solid safeguards and preventing the North from taking arbitrary actions in the future.
He said that matters like labor relations, taxation and maintenance expenses as well as other issues needed to be worked out. The South is also expected to bring up the issue of allowing mobile phones and Internet use at Gaesong, as well as lifting travel restrictions and customs inspections that are currently regulated by the North and have been cited for causing inconveniences for businesses.
Such restrictions have been also cited for making it difficult to attract global investors, despite the cheap labor offered by North Korean workers. [Korea Herald]
By Leon LaPorte on August 28th, 2013 at 11:00 pm