South Korea hopes next week's inter-Korean talks will produce a reasonable result that could lead to the "progressive" normalization of a joint industrial park that has remained shuttered since April, a Seoul official said Friday.
The two Koreas agreed Wednesday to hold a fresh round of working-level talks next Wednesday to discuss the revival of the industrial zone in the communist country, after their six rounds of negotiations ended without a breakthrough.
"Seoul hopes that the talks (will) lead to a reasonable plan that can fuel growth of the Kaesong Industrial Complex," said Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk.
"South Korea will focus on securing a guarantee that could help normalize the industrial complex in a progressive way in accordance with common sense and norms," he said.
Seoul has made clear that the North must show sincerity in trying to resolve the impasse surrounding Kaesong and proposed final talks to show that it has changed its stance on the safeguards issue, he said.
Kim, however, declined to say whether the upcoming talks will be the final meeting between the two countries on the factory zone, which was created as a result of a historic 2000 summit between South and North Korea.
South Korea has demanded Pyongyang take responsibility for the shutdown and called for solid guarantees to make certain that another work stoppage does not occur in the future.
The North, meanwhile, has called for an immediate reopening of the factory park and skirted responsibility for its decision to pull its workers from the zone in April that effectively halted operations at Kaesong.
The communist country has so far said it can close down the complex again if Seoul engages in political and military provocations that occurred in March and April of this year, apparently referring to the U.S.-involved South Korean military drills.
Another joint annual military drills by the U.S. and South Korea are scheduled to take place this month starting Aug. 19.
The ministry spokesman said that Seoul's position has always been to separate Kaesong from political and military developments on the Korean Peninsula.
The ministry cautioned that despite some upbeat predictions that an agreement can be reached, there are many pitfalls that must be resolved first.
"The North did not mention South Korea's political and military actions that it claimed triggered the current work stoppage when it requested talks this time around," said an official source, who declined to be identified, adding that this may not be the case when talks actually begin.
He pointed out that there is still a danger of the talks stalling since technically the latest offer by the North does not represent anything new.
"Pyongyang may have taken a step forward, yet there is skepticism over the outcome of the talks, especially since the government is interested in content and not empty words," the source said.
The North's about-face this week to hold talks came shortly after South Korea announced its plans to begin insurance payments to the South Korean companies in Kaesong for their losses incurred, a move seen as presaging a permanent closure of the complex. Seoul earlier in the week approved payments of 280.9 billion won in insurance to Kaesong companies.
A total of 109 companies had initially asked for coverage under the special inter-Korean insurance policy.
After the North's announcement, however, all but two firms decided to take a wait-and-see approach until the planned talks take place, with five more companies saying that they're still inclined toward collecting the insurance.
The two firms will receive a combined 5.5 billion won (US$4.9 million) in insurance payments.
Once the payment is made, the government will acquire subrogation rights that will allow it to control factories and assets in Kaesong.
The insurance payment has been viewed by many as the first step in a move by Seoul to implement grave measures against Kaesong that can eventually result in the closure of the industrial park, the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean rapprochement.