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S. Korea offers to hold road show for Kaesong complex

Officials of the two Koreas discussed Thursday sustainable development of their joint factory park as global financial officials toured the enclave, a symbol of inter-Korean detente.

Internationalization was a key topic of the rare inter-Korean meeting in the North's border city of Kaesong, where the factory park is located. The meeting was the first of its kind since September.

The meeting drew keen media attention as it came following the shocking purge and execution of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's once-powerful uncle, Jang Song-thaek. Outside analysts believe that the incident revealed signs of instability in the highly secretive country.

"We're very impressed with what we've seen here, in terms of people having jobs and producing," Turkish Vice Finance Minister Ibrahim Canakci said, according to foreign media reports. He made the comments to reporters after touring the sprawling enclave, home to 120 small South Korean plants producing garments and other labor-intensive goods. More than 44,000 North Koreans work in the complex.

Canakci was among about two dozen officials from the world's G-20 economies who toured the Kaesong complex. They were in Seoul for a previously scheduled global financial meeting.

The Kaesong factory park resumed operations in September, more than five months after the North unilaterally closed it in anger over South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises.

North Korea has pledged not to shut down the facility again, but South Korea has proposed inviting foreign investment, believing the presence of foreign companies could help deter North Korea from breaking its word.

At Thursday's meeting in Kaesong, South Korea proposed that a joint "road show" be held next month for potential foreign investors, an official of the Unification Ministry said.

The North told the South to hold further consultations on a time frame for the road show, the official said, after the South Korean delegation returned home from Kaesong.

The sides had oroginally planned to hold the investment event in late October, though the plan was called off amid heightened tensions on the peninsula.

At Thursday's meeting, South Korea also offered to provide oil and other materials and equipment worth about 440 million won (US$415,000) to help modernize facilities in Kaesong for customs and communication, the official said.

The sides agreed to hold further consultations to enhance travel, communication and customs of South Korean factory managers, the three major obstacles that Seoul says must be addressed to induce foreign investment to Kaesong.

The one-day meeting came four months after the sides agreed to allow South Korean factory managers to use the Internet and mobile phones provided by South Korean operators across the heavily fortified border.

Currently, South Korean factory managers make international phone calls when they need to talk with their colleagues in Seoul.

The factory park, which marries South Korea's capital and technology with the North's cheap labor, serves as a major legitimate revenue source for the cash-strapped communist country.

(Yonhap News)