Archive for the ‘Bureau of Special Zone Development’ Category

2015 Kaesong wage fight (UPDATED)

Monday, May 25th, 2015

In 2011, Kaesong workers officially received their 5th consecutive annual pay increase. In 2012, they “received” their 6th consecutive pay increase. In 2013 there was no pay increase because Pyongyang closed the complex down in a dispute with the South Koreans. In 2014, work resumed at the complex and Kaesong workers “received” a 5% pay increase, but Pyongyang wanted a 10% to make up for the 2013 year (in which they closed the complex). Now it looks like Pyongyang is raising tensions (unjustifiably in my opinion) to recover a “pay increase” they feel they are owed.

For those new to this topic, I should point out that we are not talking about wages paid to North Korean workers. We are talking about US dollar balances (cash) that are given directly by South Korean firms to the North Korean government. The North Korean government keeps all of the hard currency and pays its workers in local currency. That said, The North and South Koreans still officially refer to “wages” (even though they are nothing of the sort), so I will as well.

I am chronicling this developing story in periodic updates below.

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UPDATE 16 (2015-7-9): Two Koreas to hold talks to negotiate Kaesong wage issues. According to Yonhap:

South and North Korea plan to hold talks on a joint industrial park in the North next week to discuss a prolonged dispute over the North’s unilateral move to raise wages for its workers at the complex, Seoul officials said Thursday.

North Korea has accepted the South’s offer for holding the meeting at the Kaesong Industrial Complex next Thursday at the border city of the same name, according to the unification ministry.

The move raises hopes for resolving a months-long wage row between the two Koreas following Pyongyang’s unilateral bid to hike the minimum wage by 5.18 percent to US$74 per month for about 55,000 North Korean workers at the park. A total of 124 South Korean small- and medium-sized enterprises are operating factories there.

The South has rejected the communist neighbor’s move, saying it is in breach of a 2004 agreement that calls for the two sides to set wages through consultations. The wage cap has been set at 5 percent per year.

In August 2013, the two Koreas decided to set up a joint committee in charge of running the industrial park following the North’s unilateral move in April of that year that shut down the park for about four months.

The committee is an integral part of a deal that called for reopening the complex and adopting safeguards to prevent any work stoppages in the future. The committee has not met since June last year due to the North’s refusal.

The joint factory park, which opened in 2004, is the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation. It has served as a major revenue source for the cash-strapped communist North, while South Korea has utilized cheap but skilled North Korean laborers.

In what could be a temporary relief, North Korea accepted South Korea’s tentative offer in late May to pay wages at the current level of $70.35, but Seoul and Pyongyang have yet to resolve the issue fully.

Meanwhile, the ministry said that Pyongyang has sent a notice to Seoul saying that it will tighten its surveillance over South Koreans moving in and out of the complex.

The North is known to have expressed complaints over South Koreans bringing in goods, such as mobile phones and newspapers, that are restricted in the North, vowing to take punitive actions if found.

In response, the South said that the issue should be dealt with in accordance with the two sides’ agreement and related regulations, according to the ministry.

UPDATE 15 (2015-5-25): South Korean firms begin paying regular wages, though the matter is still not resolved. According to Yonhap:

South Korean firms in an inter-Korean factory park in North Korea plan to pay wages to their North Korean employees this week, a government official said Monday.

The move came days after Pyongyang accepted Seoul’s tentative offer of wage payments for North Korean workers at the factory park in North Korea’s border city of Kaesong at a previously agreed level until separate consultations are held.

The deal on Friday would allow South Korean firms to pay the wage based on the US$70.35 per month that was originally set. But it called for the 124 South Korean firms to provide retroactive pay based on the outcome of separate consultations.

The official said North Korea demanded that South Korean firms in Kaesong pay March and April wages by the end of this month. The official asked not to be identified, citing policy.

The sides have yet to produce a deal over the more sensitive issue of a wage cap, which has been set at 5 percent per year.

In February, North Korea unilaterally decided to hike the minimum wage by 5.18 percent to US$74 per month for about 53,000 North Korean workers in the factory park.

The factory park, an outcome of the first-ever inter-Korean summit of leaders in 2000, is a major symbol of reconciliation between the rival Koreas.

It combines South Korean capital and technology with cheap North Korean labor to produce clothes, utensils, watches and other labor-intensive goods.

The factory park is a major source of hard-currency for the impoverished north.

UPDATE 14 (2015-5-22): Koreas buy time for talks on wage at factory park. According to Yonhap:

North Korea has accepted South Korea’s tentative offer of wage payments for North Korean workers at a joint industrial park, allowing the two sides to buy time for talks on Pyongyang’s unilateral wage hike, officials said Friday.

The two Koreas have been embroiled in the wage dispute as North Korea unilaterally decided in February to the hike minimum wage by 5.18 percent to US$74 per month for about 53,000 North Korean workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the border city of the same name.

The agreement between the quasi-state committees from both sides will allow South Korean firms to pay the wage based on the $70.35 per month that was originally set, according to government officials. Then, the 124 South Korean firms will provide retroactive pay.

Friday’s deal is not final as the two Koreas have not produced a breakthrough over the more sensitive issue of a wage cap. But the North has accepted Seoul’s offer to pay the wage at a previously agreed level until separate consultations are held.

Seoul has rejected the North’s unilateral move, saying that the North violated a 2004 agreement that calls for the two sides to set wages together. The wage cap has been set at 5 percent per year.

“The move will ease concerns about production setbacks that could be sparked by North Korean workers’ threat not to work or to seek a work slowdown,” the Ministry of Unification said in a statement.

It added that the government will make efforts to resolve the wage dispute as soon as possible through talks with North Korea.

The agreement came amid concerns about the strained inter-Korean ties following North Korea’s recent abrupt cancellation of its invitation for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to visit the industrial complex.

On the same day a group of businessmen visited the KIC to help resolve the impasse. According to Yonhap:

A group of South Korean businessmen visited a joint industrial complex in North Korea Friday amid a drawn-out row over wage payment for North Korean workers there, an official from the group said.

The two Koreas have been embroiled in the wage dispute as North Korea unilaterally decided in February to hike monthly wages by 5.18 percent for about 53,000 North Korean workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the border city of the same name. Seoul has rejected the North’s unilateral move.

The group of South Korean businessmen with factories there visited the complex in an effort to resolve the prolonged dispute as the 10-day period of the wage payment for April began Sunday. They made similar visits three times before.

The visit came as North Korea abruptly canceled its invitation for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to visit the industrial park, dampening hopes for better inter-Korean ties.

The joint industrial park, which opened in 2004, is the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation following a landmark inter-Korean summit in 2000. It has served as a revenue source for the communist country while South Korea has utilized cheap but skilled North Korean labor.

Seoul said that Pyongyang violated a 2004 agreement that calls for the two sides to set the wages together. The wage cap has been set at 5 percent per year.

In August 2013, the two Koreas also decided to set up a joint committee in charge of running the complex following the North’s unilateral move to shut down the park for about four months in April of that year.

Seoul has requested its companies not to send out paychecks, vowing to punish violators. But despite the warning, about 50 out of 124 South Korean companies have paid March wages to the North’s workers apparently after threats from the North.

Here is coverage in Xinhua.

UPDATE 13 (2015-5-19): Kaesong companies pass resolution opposing North’s unilateral wage raise. According to the Hankyoreh:

Kaesong Industrial Complex tenant companies reached an agreement not to accept North Korea’s unilateral demands to increase wages. Instead, they agreed to provide the North Korean authorities with a letter of guarantee to pay the difference in the wages once North and South Korean negotiators reach an agreement.

During a general meeting of the Corporate Association of Gaeseong Industrial Complex (CAGIC) on May 18, with about 90 tenant companies attending, a group of company chairs approved a letter of guarantee they had proposed providing to the North Korean Bureau of Central Special District Development.

On May 15, the association chairs visited Kaesong to meet Park Chol-su, deputy chief of the bureau, and offered to write a letter of guarantee. The letter would state that the companies refuse to accept North Korea’s request to raise wages but promise to retroactively pay the difference in the wages and the late fees according to the agreement that North and South Korean authorities eventually reach.

On Apr. 20, the deadline for paying the wages for March, the North Korean bureau had asked the South Korean tenant companies to sign a letter of guarantee in which they would effectively acknowledge the wage increase on which it had unilaterally decided and agree to pay the ensuing late fees. Reportedly, five companies agreed to this demand.
In order to prevent South Korean companies from giving in to North Korea’s demands for raising wages, the South Korean government asked them to first deposit workers’ wages with the South Korean management committee, which would then forward the payment to the North Korean bureau.

The government is putting pressure on tenant companies, threatening that it will not extend the loan repayment schedule for companies that do not obey these instructions. Tenant companies were loaned emergency operating funds when the complex temporarily shut down in 2013.

“During a meeting with the group of company chairs on May 17, the Unification Minister said that, if we can show that the companies are not agreeing to North Korea’s demand to raise the wages, the Ministry might not predicate extending the loan repayment schedule on depositing workers’ wages with the management committee,” CAGIC Chairman Chung Ki-sup told reporters after the general meeting on Monday.

“In order to comply with this, we reached an agreement in the general meeting today to pay North Korea the April wages according to the February rates, before North Korea had asked for a wage increase.”

This past February, North Korea notified South Korea that it would be unilaterally increasing the minimum wage of North Korean workers at the Kaesong complex by 5.18% from US$70.35 to US$74 a month beginning with the March wages.
49 of the 125 tenant companies had paid the wages to North Korea as of May 8. The South Korean government is currently investigating to see whether these companies used double bookkeeping to pay their wages at the level North Korea demanded.

The South Korean government has insisted on raising the minimum wage no more than 5% through deliberations between North and South, as the labor regulations stipulated before North Korea unilaterally revised them.

On May 15, the South Korean government sent a message to North Korea through the secretariat of the Inter-Korean Joint Committee on the Kaesong Complex proposing that the committee hold its sixth meeting on May 20, but North Korea again refused to receive the message.

The joint committee was set up after operations at the complex were suspended for five months in 2013 in order to prevent the reoccurrence of such a shutdown. The committee is supposed to convene every quarter, but last year, only one meeting was held.

UPDATE 12 (2015-4-21): Pyongyang has allowed normal wages to be paid for March of 2015. According to the Hankyoreh:

“The North said it would allow the payment of the regular wages for now and calculate the difference from the hike later,” explained Corporate Association of Gaeseong Industrial Complex chairman Chung Ki-sup in a telephone interview with Hankyoreh on Apr. 20. That day marked the deadline for payment of March wages to North Korean workers at the complex.

North Korea recently announced a unilateral 5.18% hike in the minimum wage at the complex, which would raise monthly pay from US$70.35 to US$75.00. The South Korean government has blocked tenant companies from complying on the grounds that a unilateral increase beyond the agreed-upon 5% ceiling is unacceptable.

Chung explained that North Korea “wants us to sign statements confirming the unpaid difference.”

“Wage payments were already made over the course of ten days, so late fees for the difference are being deferred until this weekend,” he added.

The agreement buys a few extra days for authorities on both sides to discuss the matter before additional frictions erupt over the minimum wage hike at the complex. Tenants companies have reportedly convinced North Korea to accept the earlier US$70.35 minimum wage standard for March pay, with the difference to be paid retroactively after authorities reach an agreement on the matter.

“It appears that North Korea took into account the difficult position the tenant companies are in with the South Korean government insisting that they not pay the extra amount,” Chung explained.

“I don’t think North Korea wants the repercussions of this to grow either,” he said.

A group of tenant company directors at the complex had initially planned to visit Kaesong on Apr. 20 to discuss the wage issue, although the plans were eventually canceled.

“Our biggest concern is out of the way now that the North has agreed to accept the pre-hike pay,” Chung said. “My understanding is that the visit was canceled because they concluded it wasn’t going to really fix matters as they stand now.”

UPDATE 11 (2015-4-20): Kaesong firms stuck between Korean governments. According to Arirang News:

South Korea’s Kaesong business owners are stuck in a dilemma.

On the one hand, they’re facing the prospect of having to pay a late fee if they don’t comply with the North’s demand for a wage hike, but on the other hand, they face the possibility of punitive measures from the South if they do.

None of the 124 South Korean companies have paid the March wages yet, which are due April 20th.

North Korea has threatened to impose a late fee of 15 percent per month if the South Korean companies don’t issue the wage payments on time.

South Korea says it will not accept the North’s unilateral demand for a wage hike, saying Pyongyang violated a 2004 agreement that calls for two quasi-governmental committees to set the pay rate together.

The two committees met for a second time on Saturday, but failed to reach a compromise.

In addition, Seoul has warned the South Korean companies operating in the complex that they will face punitive measures if they concede to the North’s wage hike demands.

The two Koreas have been at odds over the issue since February, when the North unilaterally decided to raise the wage level by more than 5 percent to roughly 74 U.S. dollars a month starting in March for the approximately 53-thousand North Korean workers in the complex.

Seoul’s Unification Ministry says it is still sending messages to Pyongyang asking to meet on the wage issue, but the North maintains that it’s a matter for Pyongyang to decide.

Yonhap reports that a few South Korean firms have made increased payments in accord with Pyongyang’s demands:

Three South Korean firms have paid more wages for North Korean workers in the Kaesong Industrial Complex as Pyongyang demanded, a government source here said Monday.

Their move runs counter to the South Korean government’s firm stance not to accept the communist neighbor’s unilateral decision to raise wages for its 53,000 workers in the North’s border town.

The North unilaterally decided to raise the minimum wage by 5.18 percent to US$74 per month, starting in March, for those workers employed by the 124 South Korean small- and medium-sized firms in the Kaesong zone.

Three of the firms paid the increased wages, the source said. They are expected to face administrative punitive action from Seoul’s government.

The South’s unification ministry, meanwhile, dismissed news reports that the North extended a deadline for the payment of the March wage.

UPDATE 10 (2015-4-15): Seoul hints at drawn-out row over Kaesong wage problem. According to Yonhap:

South Korea said Monday it will not be restrained by a timetable in resolving an ongoing row over wage hikes for North Korean workers at a joint industrial park in the North.

The two Koreas have been in dispute since the North unilaterally decided in February to raise the wage level by 5.18 percent to US$74 per month starting in March for about 53,000 North Korean workers hired by South Korean companies at the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the North’s border city of the same name.

Seoul is seeking to hold talks with the North over the issue through a quasi-governmental committee as the payday for the March wages, which began Friday, will last for 10 days. None of the 124 South Korean firms have paid March wages to North Korean workers.

Seoul’s unification ministry said that it will do its best to resolve the wage dispute, adding that the row may be prolonged if it passes the deadline.

“As we cannot exclude the possibility that the wage dispute cannot be settled until April 20…the Seoul government will continue to make efforts to resolve the issue,” Lim Byeong-cheol, spokesman at the unification ministry, said at a press briefing.

“What’s important is that the government has the will to tackle this row. We do not prejudge any situations without having a specific deadline in mind.”

Seoul has not accepted the North’s unilateral move, saying Pyongyang violated a 2004 agreement that calls for two quasi-government committees from each side to set the wages together. The wage cap has been set at 5 percent.

Its efforts for the talks have gained urgency as North Korea will take days off on Wednesday and Thursday to mark the April 15 birth anniversary of its late founder, Kim Il-sung.

The industrial complex opened in the early 2000s, the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation. It has served as a major revenue source for the cash-strapped communist country.

Lim also called on North Korea to stop threatening to retaliate against a move by Seoul activists to resume their campaign to send anti-Pyongyang leaflets and other materials via balloons across the inter-Korean border.

“It is not desirable for North Korea to criticize Seoul activists’ leaflet launch as it is a matter of freedom of speech,” Lim said. “North Korea should immediately stop making threatening remarks to South Korean people.”

Despite Seoul’s request for restraint, anti-North Korea activist Park Sang-hak on Thursday made an attempt to launch balloons carrying leaflets and copies of DVDs of “The Interview,” a U.S. comedy film about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. His attempt was scuttled by police.

North Korea said Friday it will take “ruthless” actions against Seoul activists’ move, saying that the move to send the U.S. movie to the North is tantamount to a declaration of war against Pyongyang.

UPDATE 9 (2015-4-1): S. Korea not budging on Kaesong wage row (Yonhap):

South Korea said Wednesday it will ask the country’s firms at the Kaesong Industrial Complex in writing not to succumb to North Korea’s pressure to raise wages for its workers.

The unification ministry said it will soon send a formal letter to 124 South Korean firms operating in the zone just north of the inter-Korean border.

The move comes as the companies, mostly small and medium-sized, will begin to pay March’s wages to around 53,000 North Korean employees on April 10.

In February, the North decided unilaterally to revise a set of labor rules that included the elevation of the minimum wage for its workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex from US$70.35 to $74 starting in March.

The South has rejected the North’s decision, saying the wage issue should be decided through bilateral discussions.

It has urged the South’s firms in Kaesong not to follow the North’s measure.

“We plan to send an official letter to them in order to again make clear the government’s stance on the matter,” Unification Ministry spokesman Lim Byeong-cheol said.

He added there has been no progress yet in efforts to hold talks with North Korea to discuss the issue.

Here is coverage in the Hankyoreh.

UPDATE 8 (2015-3-18): South Korean business owners have crossed into the Kaesong complex to complain about Pyongyang’s unilateral wage increase. According to the Financial Times:

On Wednesday more than a dozen businessmen representing about 120 companies visited Kaesong, about 10km north of the border, to voice their concerns about the move, amid growing concerns about the future of the joint economic project

“The unilateral change of labour rules is a problem,” said Chung Ki-sup, head of the council of the South Korean businesses operating in Kaesong, ahead of the 14-member delegation’s arrival in the North. “But this can be easily resolved when dialogue resumes.”

Mr Chung said the North’s stance might in part be a reaction to Seoul’s refusal to ban North Korean defectors and rightwing civic groups from sending anti-North leaflets across the border.

Experts say the wage disputes are unlikely to lead to another closure of the industrial complex, but the problems have renewed scepticism over the merits of the project.

“The disputes are unlikely to be resolved anytime soon,” said Park Hyung-joong, researcher at Korea Institute for National Unification. “Pyongyang wants to use Kaesong as a political bargaining chip when inter-Korean relations are not good. So the complex will remain exposed to political problems, but closing it carries too big political risks for both sides.”

Here is coverage in the Daily Mail and Yonhap.

UPDATE 7 (2015-3-17): The DPRK has tried circumventing the South Korean government to reach out to the Kaesong firms themselves. According to Arirang News:

In an unprecedented move, North Korea asked the heads of South Korean companies operating at the inter-Korean industrial complex in Kaesong to gather for a meeting that was scheduled for earlier in the day.

No specifics about the meeting were announced and the South Korean government asked the company heads. not to respond to Pyongyang’s call.

Instead, the South Korean government held a meeting in Seoul this afternoon with most of the leaders of companies from the complex.

Seoul discussed possible countermeasures and urged the leaders not to abide by Pyongyang’s one-sided demands.

Watchers believe the meeting was Pyongyang’s way of pressuring the South Korean companies to go along with its unilateral decision to raise wages for its workers from a little over 70 U.S. dollars to 74 dollars a month and revise labor regulations.

UPDATE 6 (2015-3-12): The DPRK rejects South Korea’s call for talks on Kaesong wages. According to Yonhap:

North Korea claimed Thursday its decision to raise wages for its workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex is a legitimate measure under its sovereignty, dimming hopes of an early resolution to disputes between the two Koreas over the issue.

The North’s Central Special Development Guidance Bureau, which is in charge of operating the complex, made clear that it is not a matter to be decided through consultations with the South’s government.

Last month, Pyongyang notified Seoul of its unilateral decision to elevate the minimum wage from US$70.35 to $74 starting in March. It also said it would collect 15 percent of their basic wage plus overtime payments as “social security.” Currently, the South’s firms pay 15 percent of the basic wage alone.

The South strongly protested against the decision, suggesting that the two sides hold dialogue on March 13 to discuss the problem.

Officials here emphasized that the two Koreas have agreed to decide every issue related with the operation of the joint venture through mutual consultations.

The decision on the wage hike is a “normal and legitimate” exercise of the North’s legislative rights, the bureau’s spokesman told Pyongyang’s propaganda website, Uriminzokkiri.

It’s not a subject for bargaining with the South, he added.

It makes no sense, he added, for the North to hold talks with the South at a time when it is staging a war rehearsal with joint military drills with the United States on the peninsula.

He argued that wages for the North’s workers in Kaesong are still low for their heightened skills and productivity and in comparison with the wage level in special economic zones in other nations.

UPDATE 5 (2015-3-11): Throwing fuel on the fire of this mess, the North and South Koreans are required to resolve real estate rental rates this year. There will be no practical way to resolve this issue independently of the ongoing wage dispute. According to Yonhap:

When the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the North’s border town of the same name started operations in 2004, Seoul agreed with Pyongyang to pay the rent for the North Korean land used by South Korean companies from 2015 after negotiations on the amount.

In November, the North’s Central Special Development Guidance Bureau in charge of the industrial complex notified its South Korean counterpart of its intention to start talks on the rent issue, according to the officials.

But the negotiations are widely expected to face a bumpy road, given a wide opinion gap shown in the countries’ previous exchanges on the issue.

In 2009, the North attempted to collect up to US$10 of rent per 3.3 square meters of land, but it faced strong opposition from South Korea, so the plan was dropped immediately.

Following the North’s notification in November, Seoul has decided not accept such a level of rent as put forth by the North in 2009, which could further mount the inter-Korean tension over the factory complex down the road, according to the officials.

The joint Kaesong factory park is already at the center of an inter-Korean feud after the North announced last month its unilateral decision to raise the minimum wage of North Korean workers in the park from US$70.35 to $74 starting with their March wages.

Seoul, however, rejected the wage increase decision and said it will punish any South Korean firms complying with the North Korean demand.

April 10 is feared to become a watershed in the inter-Korean tension over the Kaesong park as South Korean firms will start paying March wages that day.

South Korean officials have previously said that the North could take extreme measures, such as the withdrawal of its workers from the complex in a bid to increase pressure on the issue.

UPDATE 4 (2015-3-9): South Korea not happy with the DPRK’s moves on Kaesong. According to Yonhap:

South Korea’s unification ministry issued a strongly-worded statement Monday against North Korea’s attitude on their joint venture in Kaesong, calling again for immediate dialogue to resolve pending problems.

It’s “deeply regrettable” that the North is not responding to Seoul’s offer of talks to discuss Pyongyang’s unilateral decision to raise wages for its workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, said the ministry.

“It’s questionable whether (the North) has the will for the development of the complex as the two sides agreed,” its spokesman Lim Byeong-choel said, reading out the statement at a press briefing.

The North is violating an inter-Korean agreement and rules to decide all issues related to the operation of the Kaesong zone, including working conditions, added Lim.

Last month, the communist nation announced a 5.18-percent hike in the minimum wage for its workers in the zone to US$74 a month starting in March.

“The government can never accept such a unilateral measure by North Korea,” the official said. “The government will take every necessary step for the development of the Kaesong Industrial Complex and the protection of (the South’s) firms there.”

He urged Pyongyang to hold talks with the South on Friday as proposed.

Launched in 2004 in the North’s border town, the zone is home to about 120 South Korean firms, mostly small and medium-sized, which employ more than 53,000 North Korean workers.

The South’s government has advised the companies not to comply with the North’s decision on the wage level.

UPDATE 3 (2015-3-4): South Korean government holding meeting with stakeholders to determine response to DPRK. According to Yonhap:

The South Korean government said Wednesday it will hold a round-table meeting this week with the heads of local firms operating in the Kaesong Industrial Complex to discuss how to handle North Korea’s unilateral decision to raise the wages of its workers there.

The unification ministry is scheduled to hold the meeting with the council of relevant companies at its headquarters in Seoul at 5 p.m. on Thursday, said ministry spokesman Lim Byeong-cheol. The ministry is in charge of inter-Korean relations.

“We plan to review measures regarding the recent situation,” he said at a press briefing. “Along with related government officials, Chung Ki-sup, head of the council, and about 10 other representatives will attend (the meeting).”

Another ministry official also said the meeting is intended “to share the government’s position on the matter and listen to the opinion of the firms.”

Last week, the North announced it would raise the minimum wage for its workers in the zone by 5.18 percent to US$74 a month starting in March.

South Korea said it cannot accept a decision made without mutual consultation.

The ministry spokesman said the North has not responded yet to the South’s offer of talks on the Kaesong complex on March 13.

“The government will continue to urge North Korea to hold consultations between the authorities of the two sides, which are essential for the development of the Kaesong Industrial Complex,” Lim said.

The North is apparently aware that both sides have already agreed to resolve every problem related to the operation of the joint venture, he added.

UPDATE 2 (2015-2-26): According to Yonhap:

North Korea has notified South Korea of its unilateral decision to raise the minimum wage for its workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex by 5.18 percent, the unification ministry said Thursday.

In a fax message sent Tuesday, the North said it would increase the minimum wage from $70.35 to $74 starting on March 1, a ministry official told reporters.

In addition, the North announced that it would collect 15 percent of their basic wage plus overtime payments as “social security,” he said. Currently, the South’s firms pay 15 percent of the basic wage alone.

The North Korean workers’ average wage amounted to $141.4 per month in 2014, according to the ministry’s data.

Under Pyongyang’s plan, South Korean firms will have to pay $164 on average for a North Korean worker a month, up 5.53 percent from the current $155, said the official.

He stressed that the South’s government can’t accept the North’s move.

“The two sides are supposed to set wages for workers at the complex and other working conditions through mutual consultations,” he said. “The government will advise our firms to pay the current level of wages until the issue is settled through consultations between the related authorities of the two sides.”

Those companies are scheduled to pay March wages for the North’s workers between April 10-20.

Earlier Thursday, the South attempted to deliver a protest letter, but the North refused to receive it, said the official.

“It’s very regrettable that the North shows such an attitude,” he said.

About 120 South Korean garment and other labor-intensive plants employ more than 53,000 North Koreans at the complex, which was created in 2004.

UPDATE 1 (2014-12-09): North Korea amends Kaesong Industrial Complex labor regulations, lifts wage increase limit. According to the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES):

According to a December 5th report of North Korea’s propaganda media Uriminzokkiri, the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly reached a decision on November 20 to revise the Act on the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC).

It reported that ten provisions in the Kaesong worker regulations were revised including the 5 percent ceiling on annual wage increase to the minimum wage.

North Korea’s General Bureau for Central Guidance on the Development of the Special Zone delivered the notice in writing to the Kaesong Industrial Complex Management Committee on December 8, stipulating that 13 provisions were revised. Out of the 49 total provisions, the 13 provisions that were modified pertain to the function of the KIC Management Committee and the wage system.

According to the decision, North Korea elucidated the labor and wage regulations will be unilaterally directed by the General Bureau, dismissing the authority of the KIC Management Committee. Furthermore, the clause that depicts the minimum wage of USD 50.00 and limit of 5 percent wage increase were deleted. Instead, the revised provisions prescribe that the General Bureau will make the decision every year.

In addition, overtime pay will be increased from the current 50 percent to between 50 to 100 percent. Furthermore, workers who have worked for more than a year will be eligible for severance pay, regardless of the condition of their leave. The previous clause stated severance pay was to be paid only when the termination incurred from “circumstance of the company”; but this condition has been deleted from the revised clause, and pay must now be given even for voluntary leave. Also removed was the provision that states the wage should be paid directly to the employee in cash.

Meanwhile, the South Korean government made a statement disproving the recent modifications to the KIC regulations. The South Korean government is refuting North Korea’s decision based on the fact that it was a unilateral decision by the North without consulting the joint committees of the KIC. The South is affirming its position to strongly counter against the North’s one-sided decision.

Revision of the labor regulations of the KIC is regarded as a violation to the general agreement that undermines the stability and the credibility of the KIC regulations. Such labor regulations clearly violate the inter-Korean agreements on wage system and various labor and tax systems newly reached by the various institutions in the North-South Joint Committee of the KIC after the KIC was restarted last year.

The current minimum wage of a KIC worker is USD 70.30, which reaches up to an average of USD 150.00 per month after various incentives are included. Each company is paying a total of USD 210.00 per employee where 15 percent of the minimum wage is allocated to social insurance, transportation, and snack costs.

North Korea has persistently demanded for a wage increase. North Korean employees dispatched to China’s Dandong City are paid an average of USD 300.00 per month. Thus, the recent move by North Korea can be seen as a move to raise the minimum wage at the KIC to a similar level. In addition, this move can be interpreted as North Korea’s intention to maximize economic gain by taking unilateral action toward tenant companies in the KIC.

ORIGINAL POST (2014-12-9): In 2011, Kaesong workers received their 5th consecutive annual “pay increase”. In 2012, they received their 6th consecutive pay increase. In 2013 there was no pay increase because Pyongygang closed the complex down in a dispute with the south Koreans. In 2014, Kaesong workers received a 5% pay increase, but Pyongyang wanted a 10% to make up for the 2013 year (in which they closed the complex!). Now it looks like Pyongyang is signaling that it intends to unilaterally raise wages.

According to Yonhap:

South Korea is scrutinizing North Korea’s unilateral decision to amend a number of wage-related clauses at the jointly operated Kaesong Industrial Complex, an official said Tuesday.

As soon as a review of the North’s demands are finished, the government will take appropriate steps, the unification ministry official told reporters.

“We are in the process of reviewing and analyzing the contents revised by the North,” he said on background.

The South and the North have an agreement over 49 items in place on the working conditions for around 53,000 North Korean workers in the zone.

Without prior consultations with the South, the North announced its decision to revise 13 of them, which include scrapping a 5-percent cap on the annual minimum wage increase rates, easing qualifications for severance pay and strengthening the authority of the North’s agency in charge of running the complex, according to the official.

North Korean workers’ wages have jumped 5 percent every year since 2007. North Korean workers are currently paid US$70.35 each month. If various allowances and incentives are counted, wages reach $130, reportedly about 50 percent higher than the average income of workers in North Korea.

Read the full story here:
S. Korea reviewing NK move over Kaesong workers’ wages
Yonhap
2014-12-9

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Kumgang Resort operational status (UPDATED)

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Pictured above (Google Earth): April 2010 satellite imagery of the Kumgang tourist resort

The Kumgang resort was receiving 400,000 visitors per year until in July 2008 it became the scene of a terrible tragedy, the shooting of a South Korean tourist. Following the incident, the South Korean government prohibited its citizens from visiting the resort until the DPRK allowed a joint-Korean investigation of the shooting and made a guarantee of future safety.  The DPRK never agreed to these terms so the park fell idle.

The suspension of the project has cost the DPRK government millions of dollars. In response it has moved to pressure the ROK government to change course and allow the tours to resume. Below I have kept a timeline of the course of these events and their outcomes.

___________

2014-7-14: The Hankyoreh marks July 11–the 6th anniversary of the day when tours to Mt. Keumgang in North Korea were suspended. 

“As a result of the suspension of tourism to Mt. Keumgang, we have lost nearly 1 trillion won [US$981 million], including the 300 billion won [US$294.32 million] invested in the facilities and an estimated 530 billion won in lost revenue,” the investors said. They urged the governments of North and South Korea to immediately hold working-level talks to resume tourism to Mt. Keumgang and to hold reunions for divided families.

“The position of the government is that the issue of the safety of its citizens must be resolved before it can allow tours to Mt. Keumgang to resume. In addition, given the continuing UN Security Council sanctions in response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile testing, which occurred after tours to Mt. Keumgang were halted, we think that the tours cannot be resumed until the government indicates that doing so would not be in violation of UN sanctions,” said Ministry of Unification spokesperson Kim Ui-do during a regular press briefing on July 11.

2012-11-27: The Hankyoreh reports that North Korea provided a written guarantee for the safety of tourists at Mt. Kumkang during 2010 working level talks with the South Korean government.

2011-9-6: South Korea asks foreigners not to invest in Kumgang saying such investments would violate existing property rights.

2011-9-6: Park Chol-su, head of Daepung International Investment Group, said he wants to discuss with South Korea’s Hyundai Asan how to handle its assets at the North’s Mount Kumgang.

2011-8-31: Chinese tourists arrive in Kumgang on Mangyongbong.

2011-8-30: South Korea calls for international boycott of Kumgangsan resort

2011-8-28: Taephung Investment Group outlines new Kumgang business plan

2011-8-24: Kumgang opened to DPRK and Chinese toursits

2011-8-23: South Korean workers leave Kumgang

2011-8-22: DPRK orders expulsion of remaining South Korean staff, auctioning of assets

2011-8-19: Hyundai officials visit Kumgang amid dispute over fate of company assets

2011-8-6: Steve Parks claims he has signed an MOU with the DPRK government

2011-6-2: “DPRK Law on Special Zone for International Tour of Mt. Kumgang” released. PDF of the statute here.

2011-4-29: SPA designates Kumgang special zone

2011-4-1: DPRK rescinds Hyundai’s Kumgang contract rights

2010-11-15: Kumgang re-fozen

2010-10-31: Family reuniuons were held there in October/November

2010-8-7: DPRK using Kumgagn assets to serve tourists in the North

2010-5-16: Taephung shows Chinese investors Kumgang

2010-5-3: Most South Korean and Chinese employees leave

2010-4-25: The National Defense Commission takes over the properties and puts the Korea Taepung International Investment Group in charge of attracting investors and tourists to the resort.

2010-4-23: Seoul denounces the seizure

2010-4-11: Chinese tourists began arriving at the resort (here and here).

2010-4-11: Employees told to leave/sealed up

2010-4-11:The DPRK “seizes” the Hyundai properties in the Kumgang resort

2010-3-24: Investors worried about losing out

2010-3-18: DPRK threatens to seize Kumgang Resort

2010-3-18: Hyundai-Asan’s chief offers to resign

2010-3-10: DPRK threatens to revoke contracts with South Korean partner, Hyundai-Asan

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First real estate auction held in Kaesong Industrial Complex

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No.10-07-15-3
2010-07-15

A real estate auction was held in the Kaesong Industrial Complex for the first time since the joint inter-Korean project was launched. According to the Kaesong Industrial District Development Committee, factory plots (20,472.7 ㎡) in the stage-1 area of the KIC were being auctioned off on July 12. A government source stated, “Land in the KIC has been sold before, but this is the first I know of land rights being auctioned off.”

The company currently on the plot was awarded land rights and permission to build a factory after signing a contract with the North Korean Central Special Development Guidance Bureau. The land rights being auctioned off run until April 12, 2054. It is not known why the land rights are being auctioned off, but it appears that the company currently holding rights to the plot have some financial difficulties, forcing them to sell.

The rights are estimated to be worth more than 1.37 billion won, and the auction is set to close on the 23rd of July. The sale is being handled by the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee. The committee is handling the sale in accordance with the rules set forth on May 10 by the KIC real estate management office. These rules established a seven-member committee of lawyers and other specialists to handle the auction and sale of real estate within the industrial complex.

After the sinking of the ROK warship Cheonan, Seoul authorized more flexible management of South Korean workers in the KIC in order to help companies avoid financial losses in the complex. The government also increased the amount of the inter-Korean cooperation fund from 50 trillion to 60 trillion won in order to ease financial concerns of South Korean companies operating joint ventures, and announced that loans to 183 companies involved in processing-on-commission, as well as 530 other trading companies, would be made at 2 percent.

This move by the government highlights the fact that South Korean companies in the KIC continue to tread on rocky financial footing, despite the announcement by the Ministry of Unification that emergency management stability funds would be made available.

Following the sinking of the Cheonan, the number of South Korea workers in the KIC on any given weekday was reduced from more than 1000 to around 500, and this has caused companies to produce less, have higher costs, and see lower buyer interest. While Seoul tries to keep the industrial complex open, it is also looking into the laws on the Mount Keumgang tourism project, seeking ways to aggressively assist companies involved in the joint scheme.

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DPRK continues to supply new laborers to KIC

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 09-7-15-1
7/15/2009

Despite the fact that inter-Korean relations continue to be stalled, North Korea authorities reportedly provided approximately 1,300 new workers in June for businesses entering the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC). Despite the fact that there has been no progress in inter-Korean working-level talks between authorities involved in the KIC, the North is continuing to provide a labor force for South Korean businesses in the complex.

An official from the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee verified that “approximately 1,300 new laborers were supplied last month,” and that “there are some young workers, as well, but the majority are 30 to 40-year-old women.” The official also explained, “the number of laborers was reduced slightly at the beginning of the year; while [their number] was insufficient, laborers continue to come…up until June of this year, while the number fluctuated, an average of around 700 per month [were provided].” Last year, the number of new workers each month was around 1,000.

New workers continue to be provided to the KIC, but there has also been a sharp increase in the number of workers quitting or being removed from their positions. At the end of June, there were 40,255 North Korean laborers; the overall number of workers provided by the North has only increased by 1,324 since the end of last year.

The source explained that at the beginning of 2009, more than 2000 construction workers quit. It appears, according to the numerous reports on the status of employment in the KIC, that the supply of workers is still insufficient, but that the North Korean authorities are working as hard as possible to provide what manpower they can.

North Korea’s Central Special Zone Development Guidance General Bureau recently held a general assembly for all North Korean labor representatives, and ordered them to “work to the max” in order to alleviate all complaints by South Korean businesses. However, as there has still been no resolution to the issue of constructing additional dormitories for the workers, this issue will continue to restrict growth in the number of North Korean laborers, regardless of the attitude in Pyongyang.

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Little sunshine on this cloudy day

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Last week, North Korean Economy Watch reported Pyongyang’s irrational economic policy threats which could end the flow of millions of South Korean dollars into North Korean coffers.  I use the word “irrational” because government policies are typically designed to increase revenues to the treasury (or to coalition / constituent members), not scare them away.  Today, however, North Korea reaffirmed its commitment to closing the border with South Korea on December 1, though with some qualifications:

1. The North Koreans will end “the train to nowhere(c) NKeconWatch. This is puzzling because of all the inter-Korean projects, this one is the least “contaminating.” The South Korean government pays the North Korean government to send an empty train across the border each day.  Why jeopardize this easy money?

2. The North Koreans will end the Kaesong day tours.  This will not be good for Hyundai Asan (HA), which is already suffering losses from the idle Kumgangsan resort.  On the plus side for HA, since this project merely bussed people around Kaesong, they will not be leaving much fixed capital on the northern side of the DMZ.  Still, it is strange that the North Koreans would seek to end this program.  Although it is slightly “contaminating” in that hundreds of South Koreans are shuffled through Kaesong every day, the North’s citizens are generally isolated from their wealthy neighbors. Additionally, I estimate that this program has grossed the North Koreans nearly USD$10 million since it was launched nearly a year ago. This is not an insignificant amount of money to the DPRK.

3. The ultimate fate of the Kaesong Industrial Zone remains uncertain.  Although the North Koreans have threatened to “selectively expel” up to half of the South Koreans in the facility, some managers remain optimistic:

“(The North) never said it would halt production or expel staff related to the production process. So even in the worst case of operating with only half of the staff, we think there won’t be any problem in production,” said Lee Eun-suk, an official at Shinwon Corp, which has clothing factories at Kaesong. (Reuters, via the Washington Post)

Unless North Korea’s policy makers are terminating the flow of economic rents into the country to curb the power of some particular official or interest group, there are not many instances where these actions could be considered shrewd.  Adding to the confusion, most analysts presume that the majority of the South’s construction and wage fees are distributed to the small cohort of high-ranking North Korean policy makers who ostensibly signed off on the projects in the first place.  So why would they now decide to end their own direct funding?

These policy decisions, moreover, will likely affect the North Koreans in ways they do not yet seem to anticipate, particularly when it comes to attracting private foreign direct investment (which is desperately needed).  Private investors will not be attracted to a business environment where the rules of the game are prone to changing every few months.  Investment entrepreneurs will not risk the appropriation of large scale fixed assets.  International aid and official foreign direct investment will probably go on as usual as these tasks have more to do with political decisions than economic.

So what is going on?  That is the million dollar question, and speculation in this case is not worth all that much.  The Daily NK, however, claims to have interviewed an “official” from Pyongyang who discussed recent developments in the Kaesong Industrial Zone.  His claim is that the North Koreans made the decision to close the Kaesong Zone for internal political reasons:

Q. What is the reason that North Korea is trying to suspend the business in the Kaesong Industrial Complex?

A. In fact, the story about the suspension of the Kaesong Complex has emanated from Pyongyang since this fall, but it had been decided as an instruction of the Party in Pyongyang late last year.

It is hard to say conclusively what is happening in Kaesong, because there are so many complicated things at work. People from the Party in Pyongyang say that the Kaesong Complex and tourism should fall into disuse and the Mt. Geumgang tourism site should be left alone. Whether or not the Kaesong Complex is thrown away is only up to our economy condition and also the General (Kim Jong Il)’s decision.

Q. Do you mean that instructions on the Kaesong Complex have already been decided internally by the Party?

A.Yes, you can say that. This was because at the beginning, they started it on in the precondition of switching workers once a year, but now they know that switching workers every year is impossible.

Additionally, rumors on South Chosun have been constantly circulating among workers and their families, so illusion of the South have now become uncontrollable among the people. The authorities cannot overlook this situation.

From the Party’s view, each worker in Mt. Geumgang and Kaesong is like a poster advertising capitalism. Due to them, our socialist system could be cracked.

As I know, at least 20 affiliates with Kaesong Complex came into questioning for advertising South Chosun and capitalism.

There was a thorough reshuffling in the Party last year. There is nobody who talks about Kaesong or Mt. Geumgang.

Q. Can North Korea ignore the abundant dollars from Kaesong in practice?

A. Frankly speaking, we have relied on it due to money. Even right now, if South Korea treats things like the Mt. Geumgang shooting accident flexibly and starts the tours again, everything is okay. The money we want does not need to come only from South Korea. There are Yuan, Rubles and dollars as well. They are all the same.

Although our economy is so terrible, we will not establish the national vision only targeted on making money. You should bear this point in mind.

Thoughts and opinions apprecaited. 

Read more here:
There Is an Internal Reason for the Bluff on Kaesong
Daily NK
Jung Kwon Ho
11/16/2008

Kaesong Staff to Be Expelled
Daily NK
Kim So Yeol
11/24/2008

Kaesong Tour and Trains are Suspended
Daily NK
Jeong Jae Sung
11/24/2008

North Korea to Halt Cross-Border Rail Service, Tours
Bloomberg
Heejin Koo
11/24/2008

North Korea prepares to shut border with South
Reuters (via Washington Post)
Jonathan Thatcher
11/24/2008

N. Korea Stiffens Diplomatic Stance
New York Times
Choe Sang-hun
11/24/2008

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Hundreds of firms plan to open in Kaesong

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Joong Ang Daily
Limb Jae-un
8/29/2007

Less than 10 percent of companies in Kaesong have stayed five years.

Hundreds of companies are lining up to operate in North Korea’s Kaesong Industrial Complex, but an economist said in a seminar yesterday that the current economic cooperation with South Korea won’t bring any significant changes to the communist country.

More than 200 companies have signed a contract with the Korea Land Corp. to join the 33 domestic companies currently operating in the industrial park, according to Kim Du-bok, an employee at the state-owned company.

Korea Land Corp. is responsible for assigning space in the industrial complex.

Among the new companies are a couple of firms with foreign connections that hope to open next year.

A Korean subsidiary of Tianjin JCI Cosmetic Corp., a Chinese producer of synthetic nail tips and other cosmetic goods, agreed Monday to lease space in the section allotted for foreign companies.

“Tianjin JCI Cosmetic Corp. and its Korean subsidiary, Dashing Diva, signed a contract to lease a piece of land,” Kim said yesterday.

To operate at the inter-Korean park, which uses North Korean labor and South Korean technology, a foreign company needs to have a South Korean subsidiary.

Yuhan-Kimberly, a joint venture between U.S.-based Kimberly-Clark and Korea-based Yuhan, has expressed a desire to set up a manufacturing base in Kaesong, but has not yet applied for space.

However, Cho Dong-ho, a professor at Ewha Womans University, said during a seminar in Seoul yesterday sponsored by the Korea Rural Economic Institute, that the government needs a more practical approach to stimulate reform and the opening of North Korea.

As an example of the failure, he said there are neither goods nor people to transport on the reconnected railroad between Seoul and Sinuiju.

He also said only 9.2 percent of the companies that tried to manufacture goods in Kaesong had done so for more than five years, as of January 2007. Many companies, he said, halted their operations after one or two years.

“The purpose of the economic policy toward North Korea is to support North Korea’s economic development and encourage reform and the opening of the North, but despite the fact that the cooperation is an economic issue, non-economic considerations were made a priority.”

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Chinese Firm to Open Plant in Gaesong

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

Korea Times
Ryu Jin
8/28/2007

A Chinese company is going to be the first foreign enterprise to do business in the inter-Korean industrial park in the North Korean border city of Gaeseong, according to the Korea Land Corporation (KLC) Tuesday.

KLC officials said that Dashing Diva, the South Korean branch of Chinese artificial nail manufacturer Tianjin Jci Cosmetic, signed a contract to purchase a 6,000-square-meter lot in the Gaeseong Industrial Complex.

It marks the first time that a foreign company has bought a site in the inter-Korean joint venture, where about 15,000 North Korean workers commute to factories owned and operated by South Koreans.

While the first-phase pilot site has so far been occupied only by South Korean firms, the KLC designated a portion of land in Gaeseong for foreign businesses to boost the industrial complex’s international image and put the lots on sale in June.

Despite the South Korean government’s efforts to lure foreign investment there, no firms had come from outside the country until recently. Multinational sanitary goods maker Kimberly-Clark has also visited the complex to discuss investment there.

Located just north of the border, the Gaeseong Industrial Complex is a flagship project signifying reconciliation between the two Koreas, which remain still technically at war after a fratricidal conflict more than half a century ago.

Despite potential risks stemming from political uncertainty, the special zone has an inescapable economic logic: cheap labor and land of the North combined with the capital and technology of the South.

Gaeseong upbeat with foreign entrants
Korea Herald
Kim Yoon-mi
8/17/2007
 
The recent submissions of applications by two Chinese companies hoping to build factories in the Gaeseong industrial park in North Korea have further brightened the outlook on the joint economic project between the two Koreas, industry sources said yesterday.

South Korean government agency, The Korea Land Corp., said both a Chinese artificial fingernail manufacturer and a plywood producer submitted documents on July 30 in hopes of securing 6,000 square meters and 29,000 square meters of land, respectively, at the Gaeseong industrial park.

The Korea Land Corp. rents land in Gaeseong to individual South Korean or foreign companies under 50-year leases. The company had initially announced in late May that there were six applications available for foreign companies for 1,750,000 square meters of land in Gaeseong. No foreign applications were received until the two Chinese companies submitted their applications in July, according to an official at Korea Land Corp., who declined to be named.

“For foreign companies to build factories in Gaeseong, they should establish entities in South Korea. So, we are waiting for the two Chinese companies to finish that procedure first,” the official said.

The contract with the two companies is expected to be completed late this month, the official said.

Experts say Chinese manufacturers may have decided to move factories to North Korea because China’s rapid economic growth is raising wages and prices.

Currently, an average North Korean employed by any one of the 26 South Korean companies operating in the Gaeseong Industrial Complex earns $60.37 per month.

There have been unconfirmed news reports that the U.S. paper-based consumer product maker Kimberly-Clark Corp. may try to invest in the North Korean city.

Kimberly-Clark CEO Thomas Falk earlier hinted that the company would be interested in investing in Gaeseong, after he visited the North Korean city in late February.

“Gaeseong industrial part has the best environment (skilled labor) and facilities for South Korean SMEs to step forward…. Kimberly-Clark will be very interested in investment (in Gaeseong),” he was quoted as saying by the local daily, Maeil Business, on March 1.

The unnamed official from The Korea Land Corp. said he could not comment on the Kimberly-Clark proposition because he is not at liberty to discuss which foreign companies are in contact with his company.

However, the official said many foreign companies have contacted the Korea Land Corp., inquiring about going into North Korea.

The entry of foreign companies into Gaeseong will clearly be a boon for Hyundai Asan, the South Korean operator of major business projects in North Korea, the company’s officials said. This good news comes in light of a second summit between the two Koreas, another upbeat announcement for the park, Hyundai Asan officials said.

Hyundai Asan is in charge of the construction of factories in Gaeseong industrial park and operates South Korea’s tour business to Mount Geumgang resort in North Korea.

The Gaeseong industrial park, near the border with South Korea, was established in 2000 following the first landmark summit between South Korea’s then-President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Chinese want some Kaesong action
Joong Ang Daily

8/13/2007

Two small Chinese light-industry companies have applied to build factories in an industrial complex in North Korea where South Korean companies are invested, a South Korean state land developer said on Saturday.

The Korea Land Corp. said a Chinese cosmetics manufacturer and a plywood firm submitted documents on June 30 requesting 6,000 and 2,000 square meters of land respectively in the Kaesong Industrial Complex near Kaesong, a North Korean city close to the border with South Korea.

It is the first time that foreign companies have applied to build plants at the complex where 26 South Korean labor-intensive companies are currently operating with a North Korean workforce of 15,000.

By 2012, it’s anticipated the complex will have several hundred South Korean plants employing as many as 500,000 North Koreans. South Korea is responsible for water, electricity and other infrastructure at the complex which opened three years ago.

The complex is a much-vaunted achievement of the first-ever inter-Korean summit of leaders in 2000 in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. The second-ever summit of Korean leaders is scheduled to begin on Aug 28, also in Pyongyang.

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Kimberly-Clark considers opening factory in North Korean industrial park

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

Yonhap
8/22/2007

Kimberly-Clark Corp., one of the world’s biggest makers of health care and sanitary goods, is considering opening a factory in a South Korean-built industrial zone in North Korea, according to the company’s senior executive on Wednesday.

Moon Kook-hyun, chief executive officer of Yuhan-Kimberly Ltd., Kimberly-Clark’s South Korean unit in Seoul, recently told reporters that the company’s “sewing plant” in China may take part in slots of the industrial complex in the North Korean border city of Kaesong.

“First of all, I plan to sign a preliminary contract (to take part in the Kaesong industrial complex) and then will persuade our head office,” Moon said.

Moon and Thomas Falk, chairman of Kimberly-Clark, visited the Kaesong industrial park in February.

Currently, state-run Korea Land Corp. is receiving bids from foreign companies which want to set up factories in Kaesong, located just 70 kilometers north of Seoul.

“If Kimberly-Clark applies to receive land for the Kaesong industrial park, there will be no difficulty,” said an official at Korea Land.

South Korea began building the industrial park in 2003 on a trial basis with the hope of creating a model for eventual reunification of the Korean Peninsula.

Currently, 26 South Korean plants employ about 16,000 North Korean workers who produce garments, kitchenware and a number of other goods.

If the industrial zone becomes fully operational by 2012, more than 350,000 North Korean workers will work there, according to the South’s Unification Ministry.

In a free trade agreement signed last month, the U.S. government said it would recognize the Kaesong-made goods as originating in South Korea.

Moon’s remark also came as optimism has been building over progress in resolving the North’s nuclear standoff.

North Korea has shut down its key nuclear facilities at Yongbyon under a February agreement, which was also signed by South Korea, the U.S., Japan, China and Russia.

It now has to disable the Yongbyon facilities and declare all of its nuclear programs in exchange for 950,000 tons of heavy fuel oil or equivalent aid.

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Kim Yun-kyu Resumes N. Korean Business

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

Korea Times
Yoon Won-sup
7/3/2007

Kim Yun-kyu, who stepped down as vice president of Hyundai Asan, South Korea’s operator of inter-Korean business and tourism, due to illegal use of corporate funds in October 2005, is resuming work with North Korea.

Kim set up his own company for North Korean business last year, dubbed Acheon Global Corp., which imported 531 kilograms of caviar from North Korea via the East Coast train on June 21, and entered the Gaeseong Industrial Complex, according to the Unification Ministry.

The importing of the caviar is Acheon’s first business transaction with North Korea, which was finalized by Kim’s aide Yuk Jae-hee, vice president of Acheon and former executive of Hyundai, during Yuk’s visit to Mt. Geumgang in North Korea June 18 to 20.

Kim will visit Mt. Geumgang Thursday, the first time since his resignation, to discuss additional imports with North Korean government officials. His North Korean counterpart is a business association in charge of fisheries.

Kim is reportedly seeking to bring North Korean sand to the South. Accordingly, he visited Gaeseong June 19, and Yuk plans to visit Gaeseong soon for further discussion on sand importing.

However, the two CEOs of Acheon are not likely to meet senior North Korean government officials, though they previously have met with and will, again, meet with working-level officials on inter-Korean affairs, in Gaeseong and Mt. Geumgang.

“Kim got approval from North Korea to visit the country for trade of agricultural and fishery projects, and the discussion has been conducted according to the purpose of his visit to North Korea,” a South Korean government official said on condition of anonymity.

Kim already discussed imports of North Korean fisheries and sand to the South and the establishment of an office in Gaeseong, with Choi Seung-chul, vice chairman of Asia Pacific Peace Committee of North Korea.

In line with Kim’s plan, Acheon signed a contract with the Korea Land Corp. to rent 1,400 square meters of land in the Gaeseong complex.

A building is to be set up there to accommodate restaurants, coffeehouses and other facilities for workers in Gaeseong, but it is not yet decided what kind of facilities will be built by Acheon. A permanent office of Acheon also is likely to be set up in Gaeseong.

Some observers say Kim’s resumed activity may lead to competition with Hyundai Asan regarding inter-Korean business, but the dominant opinion is that the chance is slim for the time being.

Kim led the inter-Korean business with Mt. Geumgang tourism and Gaeseong complex under the confidence of late Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju-yung and his late son Mong-hun, former president of Hyundai Asan. Now Hyun Jung-eun, widow of Chung Mong-hun, leads Hyundai Asan.

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Plans to Employ 3,000 Pyongyang Workers At Gaesung Industrial Complex

Monday, March 12th, 2007

Daily NK
Kim Song A
3/12/2007

Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation “Motive on driving a stable complex”

A claim has been made suggesting that North Korea will reallocate 3,000 workers from Pyongyang to Kaesung Industrial Complex.

Representative Kim Kyu Chul of the Citizen’s Solidarity for Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation revealed on the 11th, “North Korea’s Guidance Bureau for Developing Central Special Economic Zone informed the plan to the South Korean government and enterprisers who are moving in the zone and asked them to provide employees with accommodation.”

Representative Kim informed “In the past, the North has employed workers from other regions to maintain stable human resources… For the first time, workers from Pyongyang will be employed at Kaesung Industrial Complex. These people will be amongst the 18,000 skilled workers already working at Kaesung.”

Furthermore, Representative Kim disclosed his opinion, “The motive behind the North’s recent plan is its determination to establish a more stable Kaesung Industrial Complex and to minimize insecure business aspects related to human resources.”

In response, a South Korean governmental official said “The issue of worker’s accommodation has been a case continuously faced by the North” and added “We cannot know the North’s specific intentional plan for human resources but we will keep in contact to discuss these practical affairs.”

Presently, 11,740 North Korean and 689 South Korean full-time employees are working at Kaesung Industrial Complex. In the case a 3,305km square of factories site on the first phrase is completed as scheduled for this year, then 300 or so companies will be able to lease the area. Consequently, the number of North Korean workers needed at Kaesung Complex will exceed 80,000.

In addition to this, the Korea Industrial Complex Corporation announced that apartments approx. 22.5km square would be on the market until the 14th, for 40 or so companies interested in the factory complex. The Korea Land Corporation will also begin inspections next month in order to find a location for a 1,752km square factory site.

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