Archive for the ‘Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC)’ Category

Ten Years at the Kaesong Industrial Complex: South Korea’s Listed Firms Demonstrate Strong Growth

Friday, January 30th, 2015

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2015-1-30

The Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC, also known as Gaeseong Industrial Complex) has recently celebrated its tenth anniversary of operation. Despite years of twists and turns, most of the listed South Korean firms with operations at the KIC generally showed a higher than average annual growth rate of 10 percent.

According to the financial investment industry and the Corporate Association of Gaeseong (Kaesong) Industrial Complex (CAGIC), the ten companies in the KIC recorded average sales and operating profits of 116.84 percent and 143.23 percent from 2005 to 2013. This translates into a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.16 percent in terms of sales, and 11.75 percent in operating profit.

Taekwang Industry, Korea Electric Terminal, Cuckoo Electronics, Jahwa Electronics, and Romanson were among five companies that showed highest sales, operating profits, and net profits that recorded high annual growth rate of more than double digits. Excluding Cuckoo Electronics, which was listed with the KIC from last year, all nine companies (out of ten) reached the average of 485.91 percent in terms of market capitalization from 2005 to 2014 and averaged yearly increase of 19.34 percent. In addition, Cuckoo Electronics emerged as a star company with a market capitalization of 1.7 trillion KRW due to its high-speed growth, recording annual average sales of 12.89 percent since 2005 and an operating profit of 22.4 percent.

South Korean companies entered the KIC from 2004, began operations, and saw their first production in December 2004. The companies in the KIC suffer whenever tensions are high between North and South Korea, but they were hit hardest in 2013 when North Korea unilaterally shut down the complex for five months. However, the financial investment industry positively evaluates the KIC to have significant advantage such as low labor costs.

Although this strong growth cannot be seen entirely as the ‘KIC effect’, the competitiveness of the KIC seems to have contributed to some extent to these earnings. In fact, “Hi Korea Unification Renaissance Stock Fund,” launched by local asset manager Hi Asset Management Co., delivered a return of 9.79 percent during the eight-month period since its introduction in May.

The low cost of labor of North Korean workers in the KIC is considered as an advantage for the competitiveness of companies. This is leading to higher earning and consequently a rise in their share prices.

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North Korea amends Kaesong Industrial Complex labor regulations, lifts wage increase limit

Monday, December 29th, 2014

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.

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DPRK raises economic tension at Kaesong Complex

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

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.

The KIC was previously closed down over  a political dispute between the Koreas.

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

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Second firm in KIC bows out

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

One of South Korea’s small and mid-sized manufacturing companies (SME) at the inter-Korean industrial complex has applied for business closure due to falling sales, officials said Thursday.

An unidentified small manufacturer for watch and mobile phones cases on Wednesday submitted an application for dissolution to the committee handling affairs at the joint park, according to officials from Seoul’s unification ministry.

It marked the second case since June 2009 that South Korean firms operating at the Kaesong Complex have closed their businesses. It also marked the first time since the operation of the park had been halted briefly last year.

The company, which had employed about 100 North Korean workers, has been suffering from business setbacks since 2012 as its annual sales fell to US$300,000 from its peak of some $700,000.

The Yonhap report does not mention the name of the company that is closing up shop.

The first firm to go bankrupt in the KIC was the Living Art/Sonoko Factory.

Read the full story here:
S. Korean firm at Kaesong park faces biz failure
Yonhap
2014-10-30

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ROK-KIC road reportedly in bad shape

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

ROK-KIC-Road-2013-10-13

 

Pictured Above (Google Earth): The road linking the KIC and South Korea

According to the Daily NK:

A bridge and northern parts of a road and connecting South and North Korea built by Pyongyang, for which Seoul provided 25.3 billion KRW [23.6 million USD] worth construction materials and equipment, are in decrepit conditions, according to documents obtained by a South Korean lawmaker.

“A strip [5km] of the northern side of the road connecting to the Kaesong Industrial Complex and parts of Tongil Bridge [220m] are extremely run-down, with cracks and severe forms of distortion,” representative Ha Tae Keung from the ruling Saenuri Party said, citing data submitted by Korea Land and Housing Corporation and Korea Expressway Corporation on Thursday. “However, the southern part of the project [5.1km], which cost us 68 billion KRW [63 million USD] is in good condition,” he stated.

“According to safety tests, the bridge and road are expected to progressively deteriorate, raising concerns of a major accident,” Ha said. “We may face another disaster such as the Seongsu Bridge collapse [in South Korea in 1994].”

The connecting road from South Korea to the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Park in the North began in September 2002 and was completed in 14 months. Seoul put 68 billion KRW [63 million USD] behind the project for its side and provided 25.3 billion KRW [23.6 million USD] worth of construction materials and equipment for Pyongyang to build its section.

Read the full story here:
Dilapidated Roads to Kaesong a Major Safety Concern
Daily NK
Lee Sang Yong
2014-10-14

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Recent CRS reports on the DPRK

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

The Congressional Research Service “recently” published two reports which relate to the DPRK:

The U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA): Provisions and Implementation
September 16, 2014: 2014-9-16-KORUS-Kaesong
June 2, 2011: Imports-from-North-Korea-2011

(Although this report focuses mostly on US-ROK issues, there is detailed discussion of the complex negotiations around the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC).)

Iran-North Korea-Syria Ballistic Missile and Nuclear Cooperation 
April 16, 2014: 2014-4-16-Iran-Syria-Missile

You can download most former CRS reports dealing with the DPRK here.

 

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Kaesong Industrial Complex: One year after resuming operations

Friday, September 26th, 2014

Institue for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

The Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) was reactivated on September 16, 2013 after a five-month shutdown due to North Korea’s withdrawal of North Korean workers from the complex. One year has passed without interruption of operations. However, while most of production activities were resumed to pre-shutdown levels, previously discussed agreements between the two Koreas are not meeting expectations in terms of transportation, customs, communications, security for personnel and vehicles, upgrades to meet international standards, and normalization for development of the KIC.

The tentative suspension of the KIC lasted from April 8 to September 16, 2013. During this period, all aspects of both production and export were frozen completely. After restarting operations, gradual progress was made, with production in October 2013 down only 32.7 percent compared to March of the same year (pre-suspension), totaling approximately 30.8 million USD. By May 2014, average monthly production totaled nearly 42.8 million USD, showing a strong recovery to a total of 93.5 percent of pre-suspension production capacity.

After resuming operations, companies at the KIC experienced problems such as loss of capital, cancelled contracts by buyers, order quantity reduction, and other problems which caused uncertainty about the future of the complex. In spite of this, companies at the complex were quickly able to recover due to their own efforts and the support of various related organizations.

However, since the reactivation, not much progress has been made toward achieving the goal of “developmental normalization” of the KIC. This goal is aimed at expanding and improving the complex through cooperation between the two Koreas. Agreements have been made between the North and South to work together to make the complex better than it was before the shutdown by solving several issues related to safe entry and stay of personnel; transportation, customs, and communication in the KIC; and internationalization of the complex.

For some time after restarting operations, the agreements between the North and South were actively being pursued, and the process of developmental normalization progressed steadily. In January 2014, construction of the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) facilities were completed alongside the implementation of a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) electronic entrance system, and in the following month, progress was made on agreements related to the provision of an Internet service at the KIC.

Furthermore, the joint North-South Commercial Arbitration Committee was created. In March 2014, the committee had its first meeting, which dealt with commercial disputes arising at the complex. Recently, over twenty companies from the United States, Germany, China, Russia and other countries have made inquiries to the South Korean government with regard to investing in the KIC. The Foreign Investor Support Center was also opened to attract and manage investments from abroad.

However, due to the joint ROK-US military exercises, inter-Korean relations have become strained. North Korea also has taken a passive stance toward the Kaesong agreements, leading to a situation where no real progress has since been made. South Korea has been calling out for a subcommittee in order to enforce the RFID card system, continue discussion on the introduction of Internet service, and address the problems of passage, communication and transport at the complex. Seoul has been demanding continuously for North Korean authorities to cooperate on these issues.

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KIC goods and the DPRK’s Choco Pies

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

According to the Daily NK, the DPRK has developed its own version of the South Korean “Choco Pie”. And it is apparently winning over North Korean consumers:

[…] the once popular South Korean snack Choco Pie is seeing a decline in its asking price. In June, Pyongyang demanded that South Korean companies at the industrial complex stop distributing Choco Pies to workers there, as officials had found it problematic that North Korean workers were saving the snacks and selling them in the markets. More recently, the northern workers have been receiving Chaltteok Pie (찰떡) [a chocolate covered rice cake from the South], individually packaged coffee, yulmucha (율무차)[grainy tea made with Job’s Tears], and candy bars.

“In Pyongyang, at the ‘Geumeunsan Trade Company,’ (금운산, Kumunsan Trade Corporation) they have been baking bread for about a year,” the source said, adding, “Of all the different kinds of bread, the most popular are the ones with butter inside, and they are less than 1000 KPW– much cheaper than Choco Pie.”

The trade company is an affiliate of the Military Mobilization Department [Military Manpower Administration in South Korea], which deals with the procurement of military supplies among its many functions. They either directly import the goods or obtain them from military factories in various locations across the country, and oversee the manufacturing of military equipment and machinery.

Geumeunsan Trade Company maintains branches in multiple areas, including Rasun and Cheongjin, and the office in Pyongyang imports ingredients such as flour, sugar, and cooking oil directly from China. According to the source, the raw material prices are cheaper than in the  North’s markets, and the products taste good, allowing it to monopolize the confectionery market there.

“The company has brought in foreign equipment and technology, putting it ahead of the South’s Choco Pie in price and taste,” he said, concluding, “This is why with the introduction of these different breads in Pyongyang, the price of Choco Pie [from the South] has dropped to 500 KPW from 1,200 KPW.”

The same story also reports that goods produced in the Keasong Industrial Complex are selling really well in the DPRK:

“These days, there are all kinds of goods in the markets,” adding that “no matter what kind of foreign products come in, they cannot beat KIC goods, which sell out due to high demand.” In North Korean markets, goods from South Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and elsewhere are brought in either through official or illicit trade routes. The products are then sorted by quality into “good, average, and poor” with corresponding prices.

“With the KIC now back in full operation, products are spilling into the markets,” he explained. “The goods produced there are not found in the Kaesong markets but areas such as Sinuiju [near the northwestern border] and Pyongsong [located an hour North of Pyongyang].”

Merchandise from the joint complex, such as clothes, shoes, and other mass-produced goods, sell for much higher prices compared to those from China, because not only are they new in the market, they are also considered scarce. The hefty price tag is believed to include a premium for the risk of smuggling the goods out of the heavily guarded industrial park and the bribes required to gain entry.

The items most popular with men are hiking boots, especially those made with special materials to withstand cuts from sharp objects like knives, and pants. Women, on the other hand, prefer goods for around the home, such as high-quality and sanitary cutting boards, the source told Daily NK.

“Top-quality pants from China in the Pyongsong market sell for a rather high price of roughly $10 USD, but KIC products sell for $30 USD,” he said. “Although Chinese products use the best material they have, there’s a big difference in the quality and degree of processing,” justifying why those who have used KIC-produced goods will invariably opt for them again, even if it means they need to pay more.

Authorities in the North try to keep a tight lid on goods from KIC trickling into the black market in an effort to prevent people from longing about life in the South. According to the source, this is why sellers or buyers refrain from using the word “Kaesong” and simply say, “Do you have goods from the Complex? Complex pants, or Complex shoes?”

The article does not mention it, but I suspect that not many goods are smuggled out of the KIC. The goods are probably exported from South Korea to China where they are imported back into North Korea.

Read the full story here:
Kaesong Goods Fetch Highest Market Prices
Daily NK
Seol Song Ah
2014-9-24

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DPRK tightens entry rules in Kaesong factory park

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Apparently out of fear that the Keasong Industrial Complex might be used to subvert national security, the DPRK is instituting new rules for South Koreans entering the park. According to Yonhap:

“The North notified the management committee for the Kaesong Industrial Complex of its plan to tighten entry rules starting on Friday,” said the ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs.

Under the stricter rules, South Korean workers are subject to a one-day entry denial if they are found carrying prohibited materials critical of the North Korean regime or automobile black boxes.

Those who don’t abide by entry rules by failing to cover up their car license plates or deviating from regular entry allowance hours will also be put under entry denial of up to two days, according to the ministry.

The North has also hinted at the possibility of punishing South Korean companies operating in the Kaesong complex, depending on the level of future entry rule violations, the ministry said.

Currently, North Korea fines South Korean workers US$100 for carrying cell phones, while failure to abide by entry hours is subject to a $50 fine.

The toughened rules also came despite Seoul’s pronounced opposition to the unilateral decision.

Seoul has previously expressed its opposition and demanded the changes be discussed bilaterally, but the North has unilaterally issued the notification, officials said.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea tightens entry rules in Kaesong factory park
Yonhap
2014-7-18

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Farewell Choco Pie?

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

News media reports claim that the DPRK has banned the use/possession of Choco Pies in the Kaesong Industial Complex.

According to the Washington Post:

By some estimates, as many as 2.5 million Choco Pies were traded monthly — though it’s unclear who exactly was so assiduously following Choco Pie markets.

Regardless of its volume, the trade will now surely be shrinking.

According to recent reports in the South Korean press, North Korean authorities have now banned the South Korean-produced Choco Pie at the Kaesong Industrial Complex following a lengthy crackdown on the chocolate treat that has made it scarce in Pyongyang.

Before, workers could pocket as many as 20 pies every night of work. But now, South Korean factory staff said they’ll instead get sausages, instant noodles, powdered coffee or chocolate bars as a bonus.

You can read the full story here.

More information here and here.

Previous posts on the Kaesong Industrial Complex here.

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