Koreas to hold talks on cooperation in light industry sector

Sohn Suk-joo

South and North Korea will hold new round of working-level talks this week to discuss ways to cooperate in light industry and natural resource exploration, the Unification Ministry said Wednesday.

The two-day talks slated to be held in the North Korean border city of Kaesong on Thursday come as North Korea moves to take initial steps to shut down its main nuclear facilities.

In April, South Korea reconfirmed the agreement to supply industrial materials worth US$80 million to the North starting in June to help revive its sagging light industry in return for the right to develp natural resources in the North.

Under the deal, North Korea will allow a team of South Korean experts to conduct an on-site survey of three zinc and magnesite deposits in its mountainous northeastern region for 12 days beginning June 25. In return, the South will ship 5 million tons of polyester fabrics worth $800,000 to the North on June 27.

But the schedule has been postponed as the two sides failed to thrash out differences on the price and list of industrial materials the South is to provide the North in exchange for the right to develop natural resources in the communist country. The North called for more than the South had earmarked for in the shipment, according to South Korean officials.

In 2005, South Korea agreed to offer industrial raw materials to the North to help it produce clothing, footwear and soap starting in 2006. In return, the North was to provide the South with minerals, such as zinc and magnesite, after mines were developed with South Korean investments guaranteed by Pyongyang.

But the economic accord was not implemented, as North Korea abruptly cancelled the scheduled test runs of inter-Korean cross-border trains in May last year, apparently under pressure from its powerful military. The two Koreas carried out the test run of trains across their heavily armed border in mid May.


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