Koreas agree to talks on factory park

Joint project was closed in April as tensions rose

SEOUL — North and South Korea agreed Thursday to hold talks this weekend on restarting a jointly run factory park after weeks of testy silence between the two sides, the South Korean government said.

The industrial complex in the North Korean city of Kaesong, just north of the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas, has been shut since a political showdown in April.

As South Korea held military exercises with the United States near the border, North Korea pulled its 53,000 workers in protest. South Korea then ordered its managers to leave as well, against their wishes.


South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which is in charge of relations with North Korea, said the North accepted a South proposal that low-level officials from the two sides meet in the truce village of Panmunjom inside the DMZ. The meeting will be held Saturday morning on the North’s side of the village, it said.

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Seoul wants to set the grounds for discussions on restarting the idled factory park, as well as ways to manage the facilities and goods that South Korean businesses left behind.

In a separate development, Kenneth Bae, an American imprisoned in North Korea, told a pro-Pyongyang media outlet that he wants the United States to ‘‘try harder’’ to help him gain amnesty from a sentence of 15 years of hard labor for alleged crimes against the government. Bae made the statement to the Tokyo-based Choson Sinbo in a story published Wednesday.

Bae, 44, of Lynnwood, Wash., was arrested in the North Korean region of Rason. An American of Korean descent, Bae entered the special economic zone as a tour operator but was convicted in late April of plotting to commit ‘‘hostile acts’’ against the government.

The closing of the Kaesong industrial complex, the centerpiece of joint projects hatched during a previous era of warming ties between the wartime foes, dealt a symbolic blow to reconciliation efforts. The project, which facilitated nearly $2 billion a year in cross-border trade, had been the last joint project left as relations soured over the past five years.


The closure also meant a loss of salary for tens of thousands of North Korean workers employed in factories run by 123 South Korean companies and a loss of goods and orders for business managers who relied on Kaesong to churn out everything from shoes and watches to cables and electrical components.

On Wednesday, North Korea had responded to a plea from South Korean business managers seeking to visit Kaesong to move their goods and equipment out of the park.

North Korea previously had refused the South Koreans permission to cross the border into Kaesong to check on their idled factories.