SEOUL: South Korea on Monday vented its frustration with North Korea’s refusal to engage in dialogue over the salaries of workers in their Kaesong joint industrial complex, and questioned Pyongyang’s commitment to developing the zone.
Seoul has been seeking talks for several weeks since Pyongyang announced it planned to unilaterally raise the basic salary of the 53,000 North Korean workers employed across more than 100 South Korean firms operating in Kaesong.
The move would increase the average monthly sum the South pays for each worker—including allowances, welfare and overtime —from $155 to $164.
The South has rejected the idea, citing an existing agreement that any wage rise had to be agreed by a joint committee overseeing the management of the complex.
It has made repeated requests for a dialogue to discuss the issue, which have been spurned to Seoul’s “deep regret,” said the South’s Unification Ministry which handles cross-border affairs.
“It is questionable whether North Korea is really willing to develop the Kaesong industrial complex,” ministry spokesman Lim Byeong-Cheol told reporters.
Observers say the wage row is part of a battle to assert control over the running of Kaesong.
First opened in 2004 as a rare symbol of cross-border cooperation, it had previously been spared the fallout from the regular eruptions in relations between the two Koreas.
The North effectively closed down the park for five months last year following a surge in military tensions.
When it reopened in September, the two sides created the joint committee to deal with any further problems related to its operations.