HRW Weighs in on KIC Wage Dispute

Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director at
Human Rights Watch, recently released a statement about the lurking inter-Korean issue dating back to last November, when North Korea requested that South Korea increase the
monthly minimum wage for North Korean laborers in the jointly run Kaesong
Industrial Complex [KIC] by 5% to a total of 74 USD.

Noting that North Korea is one of the few
governments that is not a member of the International Labor Organization [ILO],
Robertson stated in the April 22nd report, “Forgotten in the rush to raise
wages was North Korea’s failure to protect women workers from sex
discrimination and sexual harassment, and to keep children away from hazardous

He added that while the KIC has allowed the international community to “peer into a sliver of North Korea” and
North Koreans from rural areas a glimpse at the outside world, it is “not
enough to make up for the violation of workers’ basic human rights to receive
their pay, to have their say, and to organize their own, independent unions.”

Despite the KIC law mandating direct
payment of wages to the laborers, North Korea has consistently failed to abide by this
regulation by channeling the funds directly back to the state and thereby depriving
the workers of full remuneration. Thus, it is overwhelmingly likely that the
raise in wages requested by the North will benefit the
regime rather than the laborers, according to Robertson.

Human Rights Watch asserted that rather than arguing about the increase of
salary, the South Korean government should demand that the North Korean regime
stops pocketing the laborers’ salaries and ensure that the workers see their full wages and “not just the slivers of their pay that Pyongyang agrees
to share with them.”

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