Officials from the shuttered inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) are in negotiations with Seoul to visit the facility within three weeks, a former KIC business owner told NK News on Monday.
KIC, once a symbol of inter-Korean economic cooperation, was temporarily closed by the Park Geun-hye administration 15 months ago as part of Seoul’s response to Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test in January that year.
“The KIC directorate has made a decision to push for a visit this upcoming June 15,” Lee Jong-deok, a representative of Young Inner Foam, a company which worked at KIC before its closure, told NK News.
The news that KIC officials are pushing to visit the complex comes the day that South Korean and U.S. officials announced that North Korea had test-fired a missile from near Wonsan, Gangwon Province – the third such test in as many weeks.
As KIC lies within North Korean territory, South Koreans must get approval from the South Korean government before visiting the complex.
Monday’s request was not their first in recent months: two previous attempts under the former government were rejected on safety grounds.
But the new South Korean government has expressed a desire to re-start inter-Korean projects, with the Ministry of Unification (MoU) on Friday approving the first inter-Korean contact since the new government’s inauguration, a few days after hinting at a more “flexible approach” to the North in the future.
The directorate hopes to visit the KIC to check and maintain facilities that may have fallen into disrepair over the last 15 months, Lee said.
“We thought the June 15’s visit to the KIC would be both symbolic and convenient at the same time, as NGO officials and KIC officials would be able to make a visit together to Kaesong,” said Lee, a reference to the June 15 South Korean Committee’s as yet unapproved plan to meet with North Korean counterparts in the North on June 15.
Lee said the KIC directorate has already shared some details of their plans with an MOU official earlier last week and says he believes their request is likely to be approved.
However, some details are still under debate: namely the number of South Koreans allowed to visit.
“The real question is whether the whole companies will be able to send their employees or just around 30 selected officials,” Lee said. “We are hoping to be able to send two personnel per company: one CEO and one head of KIC cooperation. We need at least two from each, as the CEO not might have the working level details: such as the location of the keys.”
As of publication, the result of the meeting between the directorate and the ministry has not been released.
February satellite analysis by NK Pro, released roughly a year after the shutdown, showed that the North Koreans had been working to maintain assets at the complex.
Analysis in April showed possible signs that the North Koreans had removed or scrapped over 100 South Korean-owned vehicles in the KIC, a move which raised concerns from Seoul.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Courtesy of Lee Jong-deok
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