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Kaesong complex symbolizes hope of Korean reconciliation

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For the third time, talks between South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, over the reopening of the Kaesong Industrial Complex have failed. Though no agreement was reached, further talks are slated for Wednesday. Against this backdrop, we examine now the significance of Kaesong as a symbol of hope between the two sides, and what's at stake.

Kaesong complex symbolizes hope of Korean reconciliation.

Kaesong complex symbolizes hope of Korean reconciliation. 

It's hard to imagine just three months ago the DPRK was issuing daily threats of war with a blitz of intimidating rhetoric.

But since then, Pyongyang has shown signs of easing up on its threats and is back at the negotiating table to discuss the possible resumption of operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

The Kaesong Complex is a joint venture between South Korea and the DPRK, and the dream child of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and former DPRK leader Kim Jong-il back in 2000.

South Korean businesses began churning out products four years later with the help of DPRK labour, and now over 120 firms from the South employ over 50,000 workers from the North.

Relations between the two sides have gone through some very dark days, but the Kaesong Complex remains the one flicker of hope for reconciliation, and that's why both sides are taking the on-going talks to resume business so seriously.

"The Kaesong Industrial Complex can serve as the touchstone for inter-Korean cooperation. The South Korean government views the zone as a touchstone. Therefore, the limitations and problems that exist in all other inter-Korean ties are included in the Kaesong Complex issue," Kim Unification Ministry spokesman Hyung-Seok said.

Pyongyang rakes in over 90 million US dollars in wages annually from the joint business venture. But since the work stoppage in April, South Korean businesses have declared nearly a billion dollars in losses over the past three months.

"We've been able to bring back some production materials with the help of a few of our DPRK workers that came out to meet us. Current situations are at ease. Not only do we want operations to normalize, but the DPRK side also wants normalization," South Korean business owner Kang-Moo Lee said.

This month, coincidentally, marks the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, which ended with the signing of an armistice. But the past three months at the Kaesong Industrial Complex serve as a reminder that relations between the two sides can turn sour in an instant.


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