During his two-day stay in the North, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov met with the Communist state’s number two, Kim Yong-nam, and Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun.
Lavrov’s goal was to restart diplomatic talks stalled after the North Korean missile launch on 5 April. As part of his mission he is expected to arrive in Seoul later today.
Last week North Korea announced its decision to qui the six-nation nuclear talks and switch on its nearly-disabled nuclear facilities in Yongbyon to protest the threat of new sanctions by the United Nations Security Council.
North Korea also wants to revise the land lease contract and the “special benefits” given to South Korean companies in the Kaeseong industrial park.
The benefits include cheap wages and a 10-year grace period for payment of land use fees.
Pyongyang has threatened to take tough measures against South Koreans should Seoul criticize its demands regarding the joint venture,
“South Korean companies are gaining hundreds of millions of dollars in annual profit, whereas we are receiving only about US$ 30 million for the work by nearly 40,000 of our workers,” the North said in a statement.
However, the North Korean regime is pouring money into the development of a missile programme and the upkeep of one of the largest standing armies in the world in relation to the population; this at a time when many North Koreans are suffering from malnutrition and extreme economic hardship.
In the South since he was elected last year President Lee Myung-bak has made progress on nuclear disarmament a condition for aid to the North.
Koh Yu-hwan, professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University, said that Pyongyang's logic behind its demands is that the sense of “brotherhood” and the “special relationship” between the two Koreas have ended.