N. Korea OKs visit by S. Korean businessmen

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - South Korea said Wednesday that it is considering an offer by North Korea to allow South Korean businessmen to visit a shuttered joint industrial complex in the North and hold talks on possibly removing some of their equipment.

Seoul's Unification Ministry, which is responsible for relations with North Korea, also announced that the two Koreas agreed to restart a communications channel at the truce village of Panmunjom on their border that was last used when the rivals were negotiating talks on the industrial park and other scrapped ventures that ultimately broke down last month.

The ministry said in a statement that North Korea asked when the businessmen want to visit the Kaesong industrial complex, which sits just over the heavily armed border in North Korea. The North's contact with Seoul came after a group of South Korean businessmen specializing in machinery and electronics production at Kaesong announced that they want to move their gear from the park because they are worried that the just-started rainy season could damage it.

The South Korean ministry said it will review the North's offer but didn't say whether it would approve a visit. South Koreans need approval from the ministry to visit North Korea.

Seoul did not say whether a possible resumption of production at Kaesong would be discussed if any visit is allowed.

There was no immediate word from North Korea on its reported offer.

Kaesong, run with North Korean workers and South Korean managers and capital, was the last major symbol of inter-Korean rapprochement until its April shutdown and was responsible for nearly $2 billion a year in cross-border trade. North Korea pulled out its workers and barred South Korean managers from crossing the border as tensions rose during a period that saw near-daily threats by the North, which was angry over U.S.-South Korean military drills and U.N. sanctions over its February nuclear test.

North Korea has recently pushed for diplomatic talks with Washington, but has received a cool response.

The planned talks by the Koreas last month were called off at the last minute over a protocol dispute. The talks were meant to focus on restarting South Korean tours to a North Korean mountain resort and on restoring operations at Kaesong.