• S. Korea proposes Kaesong dialogues

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    SEOUL: South Korea on Thursday proposed talks with North Korea on reopening a shuttered joint industrial zone following months of high military tensions.

    The proposal came a day after the North restored a cross-border hotline and announced it would let the South’s businessmen visit the Kaesong estate to check on their closed factories.

    The South’s Unification Ministry sent a message to the North suggesting a meeting at the border truce village of Panmunjom on Saturday, spokesman Kim Hyung-Seok said.

    “The two sides would be able to discuss the issue of checking on facilities and equipment . . . and the issue of reopening the Kaesong industrial district,” Kim said.

    There was no immediate res-ponse from the North. Plans for high-level talks last month on the future of the estate, which has been shut since April, collapsed due to a protocol dispute.

    The Kaesong estate, where 53,000 North Koreans work in 123 Seoul-owned factories, is the last remaining symbol of cross-border reconciliation and a valuable source of hard currency for the impoverished North.

    It was the most high-profile casualty of the months of elevated tensions that followed the North’s nuclear test in February, and subsequent tightened United Nations sanctions.

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