South Korea said Monday that it has postponed an investor relations event planned for the end of the month at a joint inter-Korean factory park in Kaesong.
The event that was originally set for Oct. 31 was arranged to attract foreign investors to set up factories at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which is currently home to only South Korean companies.
"Seoul sent the message to the North last Friday adding that under present circumstances, the conditions for holding the event cannot be met," a unification ministry official who declined to be identified said. He said the decision reflects the lack of progress made in talks to enhance cross-border communication and travel between Kaesong and the South.
Negotiations in these areas were part of the agreement reached to normalize operations at the industrial complex. However, very little headway has been made to revise rules governing operations that Seoul wants to change to ensure "progressive development" of the economic zone.
The South called for rule changes to prevent the North from exercising complete control over the complex and prevent arbitrary action by the North.
"As is known, negotiations on Internet connectivity, mobile phone use, utilization of radio frequency identification tag to ease travel and customs inspections have made no headway since the North called off working-level talks for the Sept. 26 meeting," the official said. He said since no headway was made in matters that are critical for foreign investment, it has been decided that there is no point in holding the investors event.
The official said that Seoul tried last week through the secretariat of the joint management committee to get the North to come to the negotiating table on key issues that need to be ironed out, yet the North showed no interest. The committee has an equal say in the running of Kaesong.
He did not say when the next event will be held, only adding that negotiations with the North is needed to settle this matter.
The official, moreover, said that the North has not responded in any way to Seoul's latest decision.
The latest move comes as inter-Korean relations have soured after Pyongyang unilaterally put off holding reunions for families separated across the border in the 1950-53 Korean War late last month.
Since then, North has criticized South Korea's President Park Geun-hye and the government for provoking tensions and warned that the communist country views various joint military exercises around the Korean Peninsula as drills to launch a nuclear attack against Pyongyang.
Related to the development, Yang Moo-jin, a political science professor at the University of North Korean Studies, said the cancellation coincides with increased verbal attacks against Seoul and its leadership from Pyongyang, and the North's lack of willingness to give up its nuclear capabilities.
The scholar added that prickly relations with the United States may have also contributed to little progress being made in South-North relations.
"Unless there is trust between the two sides, it may be hard for meaningful progress to be made in the future," he speculated.