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S. Korea urges N. Korea to end work slowdown at joint complex

South Korea called on North Korea Monday to end the work slowdown at a joint industrial park in the North amid a drawn-out row sparked by Pyongyang's unilateral wage hike.

The two Koreas have been embroiled in the wage dispute as North Korea unilaterally decided to hike the minimum monthly wage to $74 for about 53,000 North Korean workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the border city of the same name.

Seoul has requested its companies not to send out March paychecks, vowing to punish violators. Despite the warning, 49 out of 124 South Korean companies have paid March wages to the North's workers apparently after threats from the North.

The 10-day period of the wage payment for April began on Sunday, signaling for more tension between the two Koreas. The Ministry of Unification said that there has been a reported work slowdown at the complex.

"South Korea cannot accept North Korea's unlawful activities," Lim Byeong-cheol, the ministry spokesman, said in a press briefing.

"The North should come to the talks to resolve the wage row after immediately ending such activities."

The South has not accepted 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. Currently, the North is requesting a 5.18 percent hike.

"The government plans to draw up measures to compensate local firms to prevent them from sustaining undue damage due to their compliance with the government's guidance," Lim said.

The two quasi-state committees from each side have not held the talks on the wage dispute since April 20.

The joint factory park, 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. (Yonhap)

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