TALKS between North and South Korea about reopening the Kaesong Industrial Zone ended without success but yielded a measure of progress. They agreed to meet again on Monday.
Grab any nugget of optimism on the peninsula. Keeping North Korea engaged is the diplomatic path to repatriating Kenneth Bae of Lynnwood and, long term, converting an armistice into a peace treaty.
Not only will the negotiators continue to work on restarting Kaesong, they will also open separate talks about renewing tourist visits and family reunions at a resort on a North Korean mountain.
Diplomacy at its essence is the ability to keep talking en route to all manner of deals, agreements and treaties. Getting down to business face-to-face is a very hopeful sign for these bitter rivals.
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Kaesong is visible from elevated viewpoints on the border. Over time the site has evolved into a home for 123 South Korean businesses employing 53,000 North Korean workers. Kaesong was shut down in a huff last spring, when North Korea took grave offense at U.S.-Korean military exercises.
Rainy weather has taken its toll on the manufacturing facilities. A handful of managers will be allowed back to see what needs to be done, in anticipation of full operations.
Kaesong provides income for North Korea and export goods for the South Korean economy. The recognition that both sides need each other, however grudging the mercantile relationship, is progress.
Renewing family contacts is exactly the kind of residual benefit that comes from talking. Given Japan’s latest expression of concern about the volatility of the region, this is a hopeful sign.