The two Koreas have held their first meeting since the shock execution of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s uncle, resuming talks about a joint industrial park as concerns rise over instability in Pyongyang.
The last round of such talks took place in September when the Kaesong industrial zone, just over the border in North Korea, reopened after military tensions caused a five-month closure.
“We will review the implementation of what has been agreed and carry out tasks concerning the development of the Kaesong industrial complex,” South Korea’s chief delegate Kim Ki-Woong told journalists before crossing the border.
Later Thursday, a foreign delegation including G20 ministers was also due to tour the Kaesong park as South Korea solicits outside investors, hoping their involvement would prevent North Korea shuttering the facility in future.
The foreign delegation includes vice finance ministers from the world’s 20 leading economies as well as officials from the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank who were visiting Seoul for a conference.
The activity comes after the stunning purge last week of the young leader’s uncle and one-time political mentor, Jang Song-Thaek. The US and South Korea have expressed concern that the purge indicates high-level instability in the opaque regime.
But North Korea set aside its recent internal ructions to authorise the foreign delegation’s visit and the Kaesong meeting, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry.
Another foreign visitor headed to North Korea on Thursday – US basketball star Dennis Rodman, who has struck up an unlikely friendship with Kim and plans to train a North Korean basketball team.
Rodman is organising an exhibition game between the North Koreans and a team of mainly ex-NBA players on January 8, to mark Kim’s birthday.
“North Korea is striving to project an image that the execution will not disturb international affairs and dealings with the South,” Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told AFP.
“At the same time, Kim Jong-Un will continue with benevolent gestures to calm public anxieties domestically,” he said.
The official party daily Rodong Sinmun said Thursday that Kim had sent fishing boats to a military unit, which vowed to catch more seafood to improve its soldiers’ diet.