North Demands Fees for Workers in Kaesong

Korea Times
Lee Jin-woo

North Korea has demanded that South Korean visitors or residents at a joint inter-Korean industrial complex in Kaesong, just north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), pay registration fees, the Ministry of Unification said Monday.

The ministry, however, withheld the exact amount of money that Pyongyang demanded.

“I want you to understand it as a visa fee. It’s natural for one country to ask visitors from another nation to pay a certain amount in registration fees,’’ Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung told reporters.

Another ranking official also declined to reveal the amount of money proposed by the North, only saying there is a certain gap between the two sides.

Under an agreement on the operation of the Kaesong site signed in December 2003, South Korea is supposed to pay fees in accordance with the period of residence.

It defines a short-term stay as within 90 days and a long-term stay as more than 90 days. A South Korean who stays in the complex for over a year is defined as a resident.

South Koreans, however, have not paid any registration fees to the North Korean authorities because there has been no detailed regulation since the agreement was signed.

Currently, about 800 South Korean residents live at the complex, where South Korean businesses use cheap North Korean labor to produce goods. Some 21 South Korean factories employ about 11,160 North Korean workers there.

Meanwhile, Minister Lee marks his 100th day in office today. He took office on Dec. 11 last year despite vehement opposition from the main opposition Grand National Party (GNP).

After more than a seven-month chill, inter-Korean relations have been restored recently with several talks between the two Koreas underway to improve the reconciliatory atmosphere on the Korean Peninsula.

Asked to choose the most satisfying moment he had in the past 100 days, Lee picked the 20th inter-Korean Cabinet meeting held earlier this month in Pyongyang.

During the four-day ministerial talks which ended March 2, the two Koreas agreed on several principles including the resumption of family reunions using video links from March 27 to 29.

In inter-Korean Red Cross talks, the two sides recently agreed to resume construction of the reunion center beginning March 21.


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