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NK Opens Kaesong to Foreign Buyers
Foreign buyers will be allowed to inspect an inter-Korean industrial complex in the North Korean town of Kaesong, the Unification Ministry announced Friday, predicting a boost in exports for the fledgling project.

North Korea agreed on Tuesday to let international investors tour Kaesong facilities after a request by Seoul, Vice Unification Minister Rhee Bong-jo told reporters.

``The North¡¯s decision to permit visits to Kaesong will be helpful in securing foreign markets and attracting international investment,¡¯¡¯ he said.

Living Art, one of 15 South Korean firms operating in a pilot zone at the complex, is planning to tour several German buyers around its facilities next week in hopes of securing an export contract for its kitchenware products.

If the visit goes ahead, it will be the first time for the communist North to allow foreign investors into the complex, which is located just north of the heavily guarded inter-Korean border.

In March, the firm exported about $57,000 worth of kitchenware to Mexico, marking the first sale of ``made-in-Kaesong¡¯¡¯ products outside of the Korean Peninsula.

The 3.3 million-square-meter Kaesong project, one of the major successes of the breakthrough inter-Korean summit in June 2000, has been largely unaffected by the deepening North Korean nuclear standoff.

South Korean garment manufacturers and other labor-intensive businesses have been keen to make use of cheap North Korean workers while the reclusive North hopes to secure foreign currency.

According to the Hyundai Research Institute in Seoul, Kaesong will provide more than $9.6 billion in economic benefits to Pyongyang and $74.9 billion to Seoul by 2012 when the third-and-final phase is scheduled for completion.

However, Pyongyang earlier this year expressed concerns over the flow of South Koreans back and forth across the border to the complex.

A railway and parallel road connects South Korea to Kaesong across the Demilitarized Zone.

During the briefing, Rhee also announced plans for a concert to celebrate the one millionth South Korean tourist to visit Mt. Kumgang, the site of another landmark joint project in North Korea.

South Korean tour operator Hyundai Asan will host a concert with its North Korean counterpart on June 8 at the east coast mountain resort, he said. Several popular singers from the South will attend while Pyongyang plans to send a team of acrobats and other entertainers.

Meanwhile, a South Korean cargo ship was to depart for the North today carrying some of the 200,000 tons of fertilizer pledged by Seoul last week during four day¡¯s of inter-Korean talks.

North Korean ships have already begun freighting the fertilizer aid but this will be the first shipment by a South Korean vessel.