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(EDITORIAL from the Korea Times on Aug. 9)
Time for decision

Reopen factory complex from longer, broader viewpoints

After many twists and turns, the two Koreas will hold a seventh round of talks on reopening the Gaeseong Industrial Complex next Wednesday. Officials should do their best to iron out their remaining differences and restart the joint park as soon as possible.

   It's not completely certain why North Korea changed its mind at the last minute and decided to come back to the dialogue table. Pyongyang might badly need the hard cash of around $80 million a year, and wants to appear as a trustful business partner to potential foreign investors. Seoul's adamancy in risking permanent closure of the complex also could have facilitated the communist regime’'s decision.

   Still we hope the North, like the South, will have concluded not to let the last symbol of inter-Korean economic cooperation wither away and extinguish the embers of reconciliation for an indefinite period.

   Too much is at stake to allow such an unfortunate event to occur.

   Up to $3 billion in lost investment and production for hundreds of South Korean firms would be a rather small cost to pay for the shutdown of the complex.

   If the Koreas fail to restart the industrial park because of opposing rigid stances at next week's talks, Seoul will likely experience difficulties not only in solving the North Korean nuclear crisis and minimizing the belligerent regime's military provocations, but also in maintaining the South’s own credit standing and the national homogeneity of Koreans.

   Some of the biggest stumbling blocks in the way of smooth progress for the resumed negotiations will be Seoul's undue adherence to Pyongyang’s admission and compensation for the operational suspension over the past four months as well as the latter's unequivocal guarantee that it will never cause a similar disruption again. These are of course all necessary preconditions for operations at the park to restart, but Seoul will need to predetermine acceptable levels instead of demanding complete surrender.

   Unlike in sport, when both sides aim for total victory, negotiations between countries should provide room for face-saving retreats if their ultimate goal is to keep a project alive by all means, as is the case with Gaeseong. Also dangerous in this regard is Seoul's complacency that President Park Geun-hye's hardball tactics have worked and will continue to do so in inter-Korean relations.

   It's true that President Park's "principled dialogue" approach is better than her predecessor's "denuclearization-or-nothing" rigidity. But Park and her national security-diplomacy team need to think about how they can catch up with six years lost in inter-Korean relations caused by former President Lee Myung-bak's refusal to abide by most previous inter-Korean agreements. Had Lee taken over where his predecessors left off, the Koreas could have built at least a few more joint industrial parks like Gaeseong instead of haggling over the fate of the only existing one.

   The day of the resumed talks, a day before the 68th anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japanese occupation, is symbolic enough. As the former colonial ruler is about to revive its hideous militaristic past, until when should the biggest victims of the Empire of Japan, which imposed colonization and consequent national division, fight with each other? And until when should Koreans suffer insults from Japanese leaders because of their own divisiveness?

   Koreans have too long a way to go to become mired in such self-ruinous rivalry.