SEOUL, July 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korea called on North Korea Tuesday to respond promptly to its proposal to hold final talks to normalize an inter-Korean industrial complex that has remained shut down for nearly four months.
The North has yet to respond to Seoul's offer Monday for negotiations on the normalization of the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the communist country. The South has warned of a "grave" decision if the North doesn't respond or if it doesn't change its stance on measures to prevent a recurrence of disruptions.
The unification ministry in charge of cross-border relations has released neither details of the overture nor the deadline for the North's response.
A ministry official told reporters Seoul cannot wait indefinitely for North Korea to make its point clear on the safeguard issue that it views as key to reopening the factory zone.
"We cannot wait forever because of the mounting damage to companies (with factories at the complex) and public concerns," said the official on the condition of anonymity.
"The North needs to show sincerity in the safeguard issue that is a key pre-requisite to the internationalization of the business park."
All operations at Kaesong located just north of the demilitarized zone came to a screeching halt in early April after Pyongyang restricted access and pulled out its 53,000 laborers from the joint venture.
The two sides have held six rounds of negotiations this month but failed to iron out differences as they stuck to their guns.
Seoul insists on getting strong assurance from the North that it will not take unilateral actions in the future to disrupt operations, saying that Pyongyang must accept full responsibility for the current state of affairs.
In response, the North said Seoul is to blame for the impasse and rejected calls for providing safeguards by stressing the country holds the right to take whatever action it needs if it feels provoked. The communist country, however, said that all operations must return to normal immediately.
Related to the proposal, the official said that the South-North communication line at the neutral truce village of Panmunjom is operational, but the North has yet to send a message.
Earlier in the day, a private task force that speaks for all of the 123 South Korean companies with factories in Kaesong urged South and North Korea to quickly hold talks and produce a deal on putting the factory park back on track.
"We ask North Korea to guarantee without preconditions that (a unilateral shutdown of the factory park) won't recur," the task force said in a statement.
It called on South and North Korea to allow the 123 companies to send their factory managers to visit Kaesong and check production facilities.
Any trip to the North requires the approval of the South Korean government as well as the North's consent. The Koreas still technically remain in a state of war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
The task force also called for compensation for the companies in case the South Korean government decides to shut down the joint factory park in the North.
The ministry, meanwhile, said that despite some speculation, Seoul has no plans to provide funds to international agencies other than the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) to help North Korea at present.
Besides support for UNICEF, the government approved humanitarian aid by five civic groups that plan to ship 1.4 billion won (US$1.2 million) worth of clothing and medicine for children, flour and equipment for the physically handicapped.
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