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ROK, DPRK officials meet for talks on park

By Zhou Wa in Beijing and Du Baiyu from Xinhua in Pyongyang, DPRK | China Daily | Updated: 2013-12-20 07:11

G20 delegates are Pyongyang's first international guests since execution

Officials from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea held the first meeting with their counterparts from the Republic of Korea on Thursday since the execution of the uncle of DPRK top leader Kim Jong-un. The meeting came as G20 delegates also visited the Kaesong joint industrial park.

The G20 representatives were the first international guests to the DPRK since the execution of Jang Song-thaek a week ago, which triggered concern over tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Pyongyang hopes to show the world it has not altered its major economic strategy since the execution of Jang, who was reportedly the country's second in command and had been described by foreign media as the top official steering the economy, analysts said.

The DPRK's aim to further develop its economy will remain, but to a limited degree, they added.

"Jang is more a loser of factional infighting than a victim of policy differences, so the economic strategy will continue despite his execution," said Shi Yongming, a researcher in Asia-Pacific studies at the China Institute of International Relations.

"Jang was in charge of economic affairs within the Workers' Party of Korea, but he could not decide the country's national economic policies. The DPRK has tasted the sweetness of a developing economy, so it will not change this policy easily," Shi said.

Because of its nuclear program, the DPRK's economy has been hit by international sanctions. That makes investment or financing by major international organizations difficult, even though it is possible.

The Kaesong project, however, is expected to help ease such economic difficulties and DPRK workers at the park can improve their living conditions, Shi said.

Chen Qi, a professor in international affairs at Tsinghua University, said the DPRK and other countries are willing to communicate with each other at the moment.

"After the death of Jang, foreign countries are keen to know the real situation in the DPRK through field trips to the country and face-to-face communication with the people there," Chen said.

The Kaesong industrial park, where 123 companies from the ROK operate factories, is located just over the border in the DPRK. It was established in 2004 as a symbol of inter-Korean cooperation.

"Pyongyang hopes to show the international community that its domestic situation is stable after Jang was purged and that Kim Jong-un's administration is powerful," Chen added.

Chen said the DPRK "is also eager to show a favorable image to the world since the international community expressed concern and even criticism over the way Pyongyang dealt with Jang and his group. So they are open to foreign countries."

According to a report by Yonhap News Agency, the DPRK proposed a meeting with the ROK to resume talks about the 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 reopened after military tensions caused a five-month closure.

The ROK agreed to Pyongyang's proposal and suggested G20 representatives, who were attending a meeting in Seoul, be allowed to visit the park, to which the DPRK agreed.

"We will review the implementation of what has been agreed and carry out tasks concerning the development of the Kaesong Industrial Complex," the ROK's chief delegate Kim Ki-woong told journalists before the 25-member delegation crossed the border.

The ROK is seeking outside investors in Kaesong, in the hope such involvement would prevent the DPRK shutting the complex down again in the future. However, Pyongyang's nuclear program has made foreign investors hesitant, analysts said.

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