Koreas agree on talks to revamp industrial estate

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North and South Korea will hold talks next week on ways to revitalize a joint industrial estate in a further apparent sign that the North wants to improve relations, it was announced Thursday.

The two sides will discuss ways to follow up on their joint survey of overseas industrial parks last month, Seoul's unification ministry said. They will meet at the Seoul-funded industrial estate in Kaesong just north of the heavily guarded border.

Yonhap news agency said the meeting would be held next Tuesday.

Kaesong is the last inter-Korean reconciliation project still operating but fears grew early last year that the North may shut it down as political relations worsened.

The North ordered hundreds of South Koreans to leave the estate, intermittently restricted cross-border access to it and demanded a huge pay rise for its 40,000 workers in 110 South Korean-owned factories.

In September, amid peace overtures to the South, the North dropped demands for the huge pay rise. And last month the two sides inspected industrial plants run by South Korean firms in China and Vietnam.

During the survey the North paid attention to wage and insurance systems, while the South showed greater interest in infrastructure and safety issues, tax benefits and customs systems, Yonhap said.

The cash-strapped North received US$26 million in 2008 in wage payments at Kaesong.

Source: AFP

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