No deal at Kaesong talks

The sixth joint Kaesong Industrial Complex Committee meeting held between the two Koreas on the 16th failed to resolve
pending issues regarding the complex, namely the unilateral demand by
North Korea that its laborers’ wages be raised, with no date set for continued
meetings. 

The talks carried on for nearly 12 hours,
with the North Korean delegation repeatedly asserting a wage hike as its “sovereign
right.” The North took issue with the South’s three requests: [1] allowing
South Korean citizens’ free travels to and from KIC, [2] allowing South Korean
citizens’ free cell phone and Internet usage in KIC; and [3] less stringent
custom inspections in KIC. In fact, North Korea called for the tightening of
regulations for those entering the complex.
 

Lee Sang Min, the South Korean official who
headed Seoul’s delegation, said at a press conference on the 17th, “It is
unfortunate that North Korea did not show the will to implement developmental
normalization methods, precluding us from reaching specific agreements.”

He added, “The North lacked sincerity and
put all the blame on the South. It broached the May 24th Measures [sanctions on
North Korea including the ban on all manner of trade between the two Koreas
save those within KIC] and claimed that is South Korea, not North Korea, hampering resolution on these issues.” 

South Korea, Lee asserted, proposed holding the next [seventh] meeting as soon as possible, but North Korea refused to agree on
a specific date for the next meeting until its demands are met. Meanwhile, Lee said that South Korea will continue to try to draw them back to the
negotiating table to reach a consensus.
 

Park Chul Soo, North Korea’s vice-director
of Central Special Development Guidance Bureau, told South Korean media
representatives after the joint meeting, “We sincerely felt today that the KIC
joint committee is a completely useless organization; There is no need for such
conferences in the future.”
 

South Korean media also spoke with North Korean
laborers from KIC–generally known to be carefully selected by the
North Korean authorities and often not actual workers at the complex–who offered the follow
statement, “KIC provides the lowest wages in the world. This place launched
businesses a decade ago with a 50 USD monthly salary for each of the workers at
the time. The monthly salary for (North Korean) laborers at KIC is now 70
USD. South Korean employees receive 3,000 USD a month on average. What kind
of gap is that?”
 

The South Korean reporters then moved on to broach
North Korea’s nuclear development, noting it as a threat to the South, to which
the North Korean workers at the scene responded that if not for these capabilities, the Korean Peninsula would be embroiled in active battle. They went on to condemn
the injustice in South Korea housing nuclear weapons while demanding North
Korea give up theirs.
 

When representatives from the South’s media responded that the South’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons were dropped in the 90s, and it is a
member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the North’s workers
retorted, “Have you ever gone directly [to the site] to see if that’s actually
true?”

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