“Kaesung Industrial Complex Wages Provided As Goods” Ministry of Unification

[imText1]It has been revealed that laborers at Kaesung Industrial Complex are not receiving wages in the form of won or food rations but goods.

Ko Kyung Bin, the head of Kaesung Industrial Complex Supporting Group of the Ministry of Unification unveiled on the 7th “Workers from Kaesung Complex are able to convert their wages into North Korean currency or go to an exclusive store in exchange for goods.”

Ko said “Workers from Kaesung Complex prefer goods over North Korean currency” and “Only 5% of the wages is received in the form of North Korean currency which is then used to either bathe or on a trip to the barber.”

This fact inflates the criticism that Kaesung Complex workers were being exploited in the past and contradicts the claim made by the government that workers were receiving either cash or food rations.

Song Yong Deung, a Korean-Australian President of an Australian based trading company requested an interview and revealed this truth regarding our officials.

Ko said “With the influence of the Kaesung People’s Committee, last year January, President Song founded the Koryo Commercial Trust Co. Ltd. in cooperation with the Songaksan Trading Corporation with ownership 51% to 49%. About 120 goods are being imported including daily necessities such as rice and flour which is sent to Kaesung Department Store via a distributor and then distributed to workers.”

The Koryo Commercial Trust Co. Ltd. informed that the Guidance Bureau for Developing Central Special Economic Zone takes part of a workers wage and imported goods from enterprises.

A workers wages from Kaesung Industrial Complex and collaborative enterprises (averaging $59, excluding $8 social insurance) is given to the Guidance Bureau who subtracts tax for social cultural policy (about 30% of the total wage) and then gives the remaining (70%~86%) to Koryo Commercial Trust Co. Ltd.

This money received monthly is then used by Koryo Commercial Trust Co. Ltd. to purchase daily necessities such as rice and sugar powder from China and Malaysia to be transported to Kaesung Department Store. For the first time, it was revealed that the goods are also being distributed to other exclusive stores around Kaesung city and local stores for the workers.

With the wages received from the Bureau, workers from the complex are able to obtain goods on presentation of their written receipt and identification card. This is the distributing operations in North Korea and at present only companies with large profits or foreign currency are in operation.

Mr. Ko said “Though Kaesung Department Store is an exclusive store for the complex workers to use, the common worker in Kaesung city is also able to access the store” and revealed “However, unlike workers from the complex, the common worker must purchase the goods at retail price.”

As this truth and suspicions began to inflate in South Korea about the payments made to workers at Kaesung Complex, President Song decided to eradicate the suspicions and presented a certificate of business from the North and detailed account book. However, the figures indicating the exact amount of goods given to Northern workers was not confirmed.

Regarding this, a unification official said “If we follow President Song’s claim, we can discern that the claim that a workers wage surpasses military officials or authorities as untrue.”

However, it will be difficult for the Ministry of Unification to escape criticism as it has nearly been 2 years since North Korea has operated a wage distribution such as this and yet no detailed account of this system has been obtained.

Though criticism against wages at Kaesung Complex has been endlessly circulating throughout the nation, the Ministry of Unification has only refuted the North’s actions with ‘Daily necessities and cash is being distributed,’ and efforts to conduct independent investigations has been unsatisfactory. Furthermore, there is criticism that confirmation of the true relationship is necessary as this fact is based on President Song’s claim alone, a man who is trading with North Korea.

In one sense, a Ministry of Unification official said in regards to the introduction of a debit system on the workers wage at Kaesung Complex “For the past two months, the Bureau has been monitoring Kaesung Complex and its onsite enterprises picking up on the situation of corporations” and revealed “We are aware that enterprises have proposed a introductory debit system to the central office and it is prospected that a change will soon be made.”