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(LEAD) N. Korea scraps wage ceiling for Kaesong workers: state media

2014/12/06 11:36

SEOUL, Dec. 6 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has removed the legal limit for wages paid to its workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, the North's propaganda site said Saturday, a move that could cause tension with South Korea, which co-runs the industrial park with the reclusive regime.

The North revised the Act on Kaesong Complex laborers late last month, scrapping the upper ceiling for workers' wages, according to Uriminzokkiri, one of the country's major propaganda sites.

The site also said that raises will be set every year by the supervisory committee overseeing laborers at the complex.

The law, enacted in 2003, had stipulated that a North Korean employee working at the complex be paid at least US$50 per month, and any raise shouldn't exceed 5 percent of the monthly figure.

The North and the South have together set the minimum wage for Kaesong complex workers through negotiations, with the figure currently standing at $70.35. It has been raised by 5 percent every year since 2007.

There are about 50,000 North Korean employees working at the industrial site.

The Kaesong complex, opened in the early 2000s in the North's namesake border city, was shut down for about five months from April to September last year after Pyongyang abruptly suspended all operations, citing tensions on the divided peninsula.

The economic zone is seen as the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation, and is a major revenue source for the cash-strapped communist country.

The Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, the North's top legislative body, made the amendment, the propaganda site said, adding that the decision was made "to enhance labor quality and productivity."

The North's move may lead to friction with the South Korean government, as its unilateral decision implies the possibility of "an unlimited raise" for Kaesong workers, which clashes with an agreement previously signed between the two sides.

But Pyongyang has apparently called for a revamp in the wage system at the inter-Korean committee meeting for the Kaesong complex held in June this year.

A spokesman from the South's unification ministry said the ministry has not received any notification from the North about such a matter and "the North seems to have changed the provisions unilaterally."