North Korea Rejects Offers of Talks Over Kaesong Industrial Complex

D-Bo, May 18, 2015, 9:02 a.m.

South Korea said Monday it proposed holding talks with North Korea this week on a joint industrial complex in the North amid a row over a wage hike, but Pyongyang has rejected the offer. The two Koreas have been embroiled in the wage dispute as North Korea unilaterally decided in February to hike wages by 5.18 percent to US$74 per month for the 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, saying 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. The Ministry of Unification said that Seoul proposed last week to hold a joint committee on the industrial park Wednesday to discuss the wage dispute, but the North has rejected the proposal, saying an atmosphere for dialogue has not been created.

"The South made such a proposal, but the North has refused to accept our offer," Lim Byeong-cheol, a ministry spokesman, said at a press briefing. "We believe that the joint committee should be resumed immediately to discuss issues of mutual concerns, including the wage row for the stable operation of the industrial complex."    In August 2013, the two Koreas decided to set up a joint committee in charge of running the Kaesong Industrial Complex following the North's unilateral move to shut down the park for about four months in April of that year.

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.

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