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Seoul bizmen visit joint industrial park amid wage row

A group of South Korean businessmen visited a joint industrial complex in North Korea Friday amid a row over wages for North Korean workers there, company officials said.
The two Koreas have been embroiled in the wage dispute as North Korea unilaterally decided in February to hike wages by 5.18 percent to US$74 per month for the about 53,000 North Korean workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the border city of the same name.
Seoul has rejected 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.
The group of South Korean businessmen with factories in the complex returned home after making a visit to the park earlier in the day to help resolve the prolonged dispute following two previous visits.

Seoul had 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 Sunday, signaling more tension between the two Koreas. The Ministry of Unification said that there has been a reported work slowdown at the complex.
"We delivered our difficulties to the North," Chung Ki-sup, who led the group, told reporters in Paju, north of Seoul.
He said the group had requested the North accept the current agreement on paychecks based on $70.35 per month. He suggested to the North if the two Koreas produce a breakthrough on their talks on the wage hike, the firms will offer retroactive pay.
The two quasi-state committees from each side have not held talks on the wage dispute since April 20.
"I could not sense any signs of North Korean workers refusing to come to work," Chung said.
The North's committee claimed Wednesday that the South Korean government has violated Pyongyang's sovereignty, threatening to make its workers refuse to work.
"It is none of the South's business as the industrial park is a special economic zone being operated by the North and South Korean companies," the committee said. "It is wrong for the South to block our move to raise an insignificant amount of wage."
In return, Seoul called on Pyongyang to rescind its unilateral move and to return to the talks for the resolution of the drawn-out dispute.
The joint factory park, which 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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