Thaw on Korean peninsula : Kaesong reopens and Pyongyang plays South’s anthem
by Joseph Yun Li-sun
As agreed, operations resumed in the inter-Korean industrial complex this morning after it was closed forcibly by the regime during the last crisis on the peninsula. And in the Northern capital, during the Asian Weightlifting Championships, Seoul’s flag is hoisted to celebrate two South Korean athletes.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - After five months of deadlock, this morning at 8 am (local time) a group of more than 800 South Koreans crossed the border to the North to restart the inter-Korean industrial complex of Kaesong . The area - which is just past the 38th parallel - had been declared unilaterally off-limits by the Pyongyang regime last April, in the midst of a crisis that dragged the peninsula to the brink of war. Meanwhile, for the first time the South's flag (see photo) was raised in Northern Territory on the occasion of the Asian Weightlifting Championships being held in Pyongyang.

Trucks and private cars entered the Kaesong complex along with the workers. Within the industrial area 123 Southern companies operate, which employ more than 50 thousand workers from the North . It is one of the most important economic reserves of the regime, devastated after a series of economic and fiscal policies that have worsened an already disastrous trade balance. According to the Unification Ministry in Seoul about 400 people will remain in Kaesong for the night.

According to the agreements signed between the two governments to reopen the complex, the South Korean industries will be exempt from paying taxes to the end of 2013 : the unpaid taxes of 2012, that the North had indicated as an excuse to block the entry of some South Korean industrialists will instead be paid with an adjustment by December. Seoul and Pyongyang have also agreed to create a bilateral arbitration body - to be consulted in case of disagreement on wages and taxation - and to set up a radio identification system to facilitate access to the industrial area.

The Catholic Church in South Korea has repeatedly called for the reopening of the complex, defined by the Archbishop of Seoul as "a symbol of peace and hope " for the future reunification of the country.  Further signals of a thaw in relations are indicated by the resumption of family reunifications, which are expected to resume on September 19 , and the permission granted by the ruling regime to raise South's flag and play its anthem at the Asian Weightlifting Championships underway in Pyongyang.

For years, the two Koreas have presented a common flag and asked that Korea's official pre- division national anthem be played at international sporting events. For the first time, on 14 September, the authorities in the North instead granted their neighbors their symbol of national identification: the flag-raising was carried out after Kim Woo- shik and Lee Young- koon won the gold and the silver medal in the 85 pounds category. The North 's state television broadcast the entire ceremony.

 

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