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UN Secretary-General Ban to cross Korean border to visit jointly run factory park in North

SEOUL, South Korea – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday he will visit a factory park in North Korea that is the last major co-operation project between the rival Koreas.

Ban would be the first U.N. chief to visit the factory park that opened in 2004 in the town of Kaesong just north of the heavily fortified border. He would also be the first U.N. Secretary-General to visit North Korea since his predecessor Boutros Boutros-Ghali travelled there in 1993.

Ban’s visit comes as relations between the Koreas remain strained following the North’s continuation of missile and other weapons tests that South Korea views as provocation. There are also worries about North Korea after South Korea’s spy agency said last week that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had his defence chief executed with an anti-aircraft gun.

During his visit to South Korea, Ban told reporters that he hopes his visit to the Kaesong factory park on Thursday will help improve ties between the Koreas.

The park opened during a period of warming ties between the Koreas and has been considered a test case for unification as it pairs cheap local labour with South Korean know-how and technology.

It survived past periods of animosities such as the North’s artillery bombardment of a South Korean island in 2010 while other cross-border projects such as tours to a scenic North Korean mountain remain deadlocked.

The Korean Peninsula remains in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.