Two Koreas open liaison office in office in suspended inter-Korean Kaesong industrial zone

Park Sae-jin Reporter Posted : 2018-09-14 15:47 Updated : 2018-09-14 15:47
글씨작게 글씨크게

[Courtesy of the Ministry of Unification]

SEOUL -- North Korea hailed the opening of an inter-Korean liaison office in the suspended inter-Korean industrial zone north of the border Friday as a big step forward for co-prosperity and rapprochement between the two Koreas, which are set to hold a new summit between their leaders next week.

"Both sides can ... take great strides toward peace, prosperity and unification on the Korean peninsula," Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the North's Committee for Peaceful Reunification of the Country, a state body in charge of inter-Korean relations, said in a speech.

Ri said the opening is "very meaningful" as it comes ahead of the summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang next week.

"Today, we opened a new chapter in our history," South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myung-kyun read a statement outside a four-story building used by the two Koreas as their liaison office, describing it as a symbol of peace. 
The office will serve as a consultation and communication channel, manned by government officials from Seoul and Pyongyang. The South Korean side will be led by Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung, who will meet with his North Korean counterpart, Jon Chong-su, once every week.

The liaison office was to be held in August, but its opening has been delayed due to a dispute between Pyongyang and Washington over how to achieve denuclearization. With no clear objection from Washington, Seoul has insisted the Kaesong office would not violate international sanctions.

The two Koreas opened the Kaesong industrial zone in December 2004 as a symbol of inter-Korean cooperation. The zone once hosted about 120 South Korean firms manned by more than 50,000 North Korean workers. Seoul shut it down in 2016 in retaliation for the North's ballistic missile and nuclear tests.

At a summit in April, South and North Korean leaders agreed to reactivate cross-border exchanges and economic projects. The international community supports sustained sanctions until considerable progress is made in denuclearization.