North Korea made a last-minute agreement Thursday to hold talks Feb 1 with South Korea on the development of their jointly run industrial park, a South Korean official said.
Kim Young Tak, head of South Korea’s delegation to this week’s talks in the North on the park, said Pyongyang accepted a proposal from Seoul for more talks immediately before Kim’s delegation was to return home.
The promise to hold further talks came despite a threat from North Korea last week to cut off all dialogue with Seoul and wage a "pan-national holy war of retaliation".
"The North Korean side accepted our proposal … just as we were bidding farewell," Kim said upon his return to Seoul after talks Tuesday and Wednesday at Kaesong, the North Korean border village where the industrial park is located.
This week’s meetings were called to discuss proposals to improve the industrial park on the basis of visits North and South Korean officials made together in December to industrial parks in China and Vietnam.
More than 40,000 North Koreans work for about 110 South Korean firms in the Kaesong park, making products such as shoes, clothing and watches.
This week’s meeting followed a threat Friday from Pyongyang to cut off contact with Seoul and wage the "holy war" after reports that South Korea had revised a contingency plan to deal with the potential collapse of the Stalinist regime. North Korea demanded an apology from the South.
The future of the industrial park was called into question last year when relations between the two Koreas deteriorated amid a North Korean nuclear test, missile tests and threats against the South.
The two Koreas remain technically at war after an armistice, and not a peace treaty, ended the 1950-53 Korean War. Relations have been tense since conservative South Korean President Lee Myung Bak took office nearly two years ago and took a harder line toward the North than his liberal predecessors.