North and South Korea began talks on Tuesday on the future of their jointly run industrial park, four days after the North threatened to break off all contact with the South and begin a “holy war.” The talks took place at the park in the North Korean border town of Kaesong, the Unification Ministry in Seoul said.
Before leaving for North Korea, Kim Young Taek, head of the ministry’s office for inter-Korean dialogue, said he hoped open discussions over improving the park would be held.
Both delegations at the talks, which are to continue until Wednesday, plan to evaluate visits North and South Korean officials made together in December to industrial complexes in China and Vietnam.
South Korea said that after the visits, both countries believed the Kaesong park must be made into an internationally competitive facility.
More than 40,000 North Koreans work for about 110 South Korean firms in the park, making products such as shoes, clothing and watches.
This week’s talks followed a threat on Friday from Pyongyang to cut off all dialogue with Seoul and a vow to wage a “pan-national holy war of retaliation” after reports that South Korea had revised a contingency plan to deal with the potential collapse of the Stalinist regime. North Korea demanded an apology from the South.
The threat surprised Seoul after Pyongyang had agreed to the Kaesong talks, called for negotiations on the resumption of joint tourism projects and accepted a South Korean offer for food aid.
The two Koreas remain technically at war after an armistice, and not a peace treaty, ended the 1950-53 Korean War. Relations have been tense since conservative South Korean President Lee Myung Bak took office nearly two years ago and took a harder line toward the North than his liberal predecessors.