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The head of a German shoemaker crossed the border into North Korea from Seoul on Thursday to study a joint venture with his South Korean counterpart, officials said.
Michael Ertl, CEO of ME&Friends AG, was to tour a factory park in the North's western border city of Kaesong with Moon Chang-seop, head of Samduk Tongsang Co., a South Korean shoemaker that runs a factory in Kaesong, according to company officials of the Korean firm.
Ertl and Moon were to return to Seoul later in the day.
It marked the first time that a foreign prospective investor has visited the park since earlier this month when South and North Korea reopened their jointly run factory park, the only remaining symbol of inter-Korean cooperation.
ME&Friends has resumed its business with Samduk Tongsang following the normalization of the factory park in Kaesong. The German company has imported about 300,000 shoes from Samduk Tongsang per year for more than 10 years.
The North had unilaterally shuttered the factory park in April in anger over joint annual military exercises between South Korea and the United States. But Pyongyang promised last month that it will not shut the park down again "under any circumstances."
The factory park, an achievement of the first inter-Korean summit held in Pyongyang in 2000, combines South Korea's capital and technology with the North's cheap labor.
More than 53,000 North Koreans work at 123 South Korean firms operating in the park to produce clothes, utensils, shoes, watches and other goods. The project serves as a major legitimate revenue source for the impoverished communist country.
Source: Yonhap News (Sep. 26, 2013)