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S.Korea, DPRK fail to agree on reopening Kaesong industrial zone


18:05, July 17, 2013

SEOUL, July 17 (Xinhua) -- The fourth round of working-level talks between Seoul and Pyongyang ended once again without any agreement, indicating that the inter-Korean talks to reopen the Kaesong industrial complex would be prolonged.

South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Wednesday held the fourth round of talks at the joint industrial park in Kaesong, just north of the heavily armed border, but they failed to narrow gaps.

Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to hold the fifth round of working- level talks next Monday in Kaesong to discuss how to normalize the symbol of inter-Korean economic cooperation that has been suspended for more than three months.

As seen in the previous three rounds of talks, differences lingered over conditions for normalizing operations.

Seoul has called on Pyongyang to take responsibility for the damages to South Korean companies caused by its unilateral shutdown of the industrial park in April, and provide a clear assurance to prevent recurrence of such an incident.

South Korea also demanded the Kaesong industrial zone be developed into an international factory park by allowing foreign companies to invest there, urging the DPRK to devise legal and administrative assurances related to safety of South Korean personnel and protection for assets invested in the complex.

Pyongyang has blamed Seoul for the suspension, saying that it mainly stemmed from the joint military exercises between Seoul and Washington. The DPRK urged South Korea to rapidly reopen the industrial park after finishing the maintenance work.

"Our side said a material question about (adopting) the statement of agreement lies in an assurance of recurrence prevention, but the stance of the North side (DPRK) didn't make headway," Kim Kiwoong, Seoul's top delegate and director-general of the Unification Ministry's inter-Korean district support directorate, told reporters at a briefing.

Kim noted that big gaps remained between Seoul and Pyongyang over institutional assurances to normalize the Kaesong industrial park in a productive way.

The Pyongyang delegation was led by Park Chol-su, vice director of the General Bureau of the Central Special Zone Development Guidance.

The Kaesong industrial zone, where 123 South Korean companies run factories, has been suspended for over three months after Pyongyang pulled out about 53,000 of its workers in protest against the joint annual military drill between South Korea and the United States.

Seoul and Pyongyang sought to hold their first high-level official talks in six years in Seoul on June 12, but the dialogue was canceled due to dispute over the ranks of chief delegates.

Pyongyang proposed separate working-level talks on the resumption of tour to the DPRK's scenic Mount Kumgang and reunion of families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War, but Seoul insisted on focusing on the issue of the Kaesong industrial complex.

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