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North, South Korea Hold Talks On Kaesong Wage Dispute

FILE - North Korean employees, shown in December 2013, sew in a South Korean-owned company at the Kaesong industrial park just north of the demilitarized zone.

North and South Korea officials will hold talks Thursday aimed at resolving a protracted wage dispute at a jointly run factory complex.

A South Korean delegation left early Thursday for the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which lies on the North Korean side of the countries' tense border.

Lee Sang-min, head of the Seoul delegation, said it will be the first meeting since June for the joint commission in charge of running the complex.

"Today's joint committee is the first one in about a year. We will discuss pending issues in terms of advanced normalization of the Kaesong Industrial Complex and strive to achieve the desired result," he said.

Minimum wage

The two sides have been mired in a months-long dispute over the North's unilateral move to raise the minimum monthly wage for its workers at the complex from $70.35 to $74.00, starting in March.

South Korea insists that any wage change must be determined through mutual agreement.

More than 53,000 North Korean workers are employed by about 120 South Korean factories in the park, which opened in 2004 and is one of the few areas of North-South economic cooperation.

There are concerns the Kaesong factories could be temporarily shut down if the dispute worsens. Pyongyang closed the complex for five months in 2013 during a time of heightened diplomatic tensions.

The complex is an important source of revenue for the cash-strapped North, which keeps most of the wages earned by its workers.