S.Korea sends final offer for dialogue with N.Korea

South Korea has sent its "final" proposal for talks with North Korea over the fate of a shuttered joint industrial zone, according to officials.

The offer came on Monday, after six recent rounds of talks aimed at reviving the Seoul-invested Kaesong complex -- suspended since April -- produced little progress.

The South's unification ministry said its proposal was sent through the border truce village of Panmunjom, calling for an early reply from the North.

"We once again urge North Korea to make a right choice for the normalisation of Kaesong and inter-Korean relations," unification ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-Suk told reporters.

In an apparent gesture to entice Pyongyang back to the negotiating table, Seoul Monday approved the planned shipment of humanitarian aid for the impoverished North.

Five civic groups were allowed to send medicine, food and clothes worth 1.4 billion won ($1.25 million) for North Korean children.

Seoul also donated $6.04 million towards a project to help North Korean infants, which is supported by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Heavy rain has battered North Korea in recent weeks, killing more than 20 people and leaving thousands homeless.

The Kaesong complex, built in 2004 as a rare symbol of cooperation, had survived previous inter-Korean crises but eventually became the most high-profile casualty of two months of elevated tensions following a nuclear test by the North in February which sparked international condemnation.

Production at the estate, 10 kilometres (six miles) over the border, has been suspended since North Korea withdrew its 53,000 workers from the zone in April at the height of the soaring military tensions with the South.

South Korean officials have said that without the North's firm and written pledge, the estate may face a permanent closure.

The North has refused to take responsibility, arguing that its hand was forced by South Korea's hostile attitude and joint military exercises with the United States.


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