South Korean Lawmakers Tour Joint North Korean Industrial Complex

Posted February 10th, 2012 at 12:25 am (UTC-5)
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A delegation of South Korean lawmakers crossed the heavily-armed border with North Korea on Friday for a rare high-level visit to a jointly-run factory complex.

The parliamentary delegation is scheduled to meet with South Korean company officials in the complex. The delegation does not plan to meet with North Korean officials during the one-day tour.

South Korean lawmaker Kim Choong-hwan called the trip “historic” before the eight-member delegation departed for the Kaesong factory complex.

“We begin our trip as a working-level one, but I have hope that this trip will serve as an occasion for inter-Korean dialogue, cooperation and development in the future.”

It is the highest level visit to the factory by South Koreans since the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in December.

The Kaesong industrial complex opened in 2004, six years after the two Koreas began a cross-border tour project at a resort on North Korea's east coast.

Despite tensions between the two rivals, the factory has continued to grow. It employs over 50,000 North Koreans, which represents a 110 percent increase from four years earlier. The factory has become an important source of income for the impoverished North.

South Korean businesses are interested in the factory because it is a source of inexpensive labor. More than 123 South Korean businesses operate in the 3.3 square kilometer complex, which produces clothes, utensils, watches and other items.