North and South Korea are holding fresh talks on reopening a joint industrial park, ahead of South Korea-US military exercises next week, officials said.

Wednesday's talks, which are being held in a North Korean border city, could determine the fate of a shuttered factory park the rivals jointly ran until North Korea pulled out its workers in April.

We feel a tremendous responsibility going to the talks today

Kim Ki-Woong,
South Korea’s chief delegate

“We feel a tremendous responsibility going to the talks today,” the South’s chief delegate Kim Ki-Woong said before leaving Seoul for Kaesong, which lies 10km inside the North Korean border.

“We will try our best to meet people's expectations,” he said.

An association representing the owners of the 123 South Korean companies based in Kaesong said on Tuesday that the time had come to make a lasting deal on resuming operations.

“This time, our government and the North's authorities must reach agreement on reopening Kaesong without fail,” it said in a statement.

Established in 2004 as a rare symbol of inter-Korean cooperation, Kaesong was a key hard-currency earner for the North and the decision to shut it down took many observers by surprise.

The project had managed to ride out previous North-South crises without serious disruption, but it eventually fell victim to an extended period of heightened tension following the North's third nuclear test in February.

The North initially barred access to the park, and then withdrew its 53,000-strong workforce which had kept the South Korean firms running.

The talks will be dominated by the same issue that deadlocked the previous six rounds: South Korea's demand that the North provide a binding guarantee not to close Kaesong again in the future.

North Korea insists ensuring the complex stays open is a joint responsibility that requires mutual assurances.

Source: Agencies