SEOUL - North Korea is slowing down work at the inter-Korean industrial complex of Kaesong, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said Monday.
According to the ministry, North Korean workers at the complex are refusing to work overtime or are working at a slower pace, hampering operation of the factories run by South Korean businessmen.
The move comes amid a months-long standoff over a wage hike for the North Korean workers.
Seoul urged Pyongyang to put an immediate end to the slowdown.
“We once again urge North Korea to come to the negotiating table with sincere attitude to resolve the wage issue,” said spokesman for the ministry Lim Byeong-cheol.
In February, Pyongyang notified Seoul of its decision to raise the Kaesong workers’ monthly minimum wage from $70.35 to $74.00 starting in March. Seoul immediately rejected the demand. The inter-Korean agreement on Kaesong calls for a decision on wage increases to be made through mutual agreement.
March wages were due April 20. Seoul has asked its companies to pay the existing rate. Pyongyang considers the difference as late payments.
North Korea is asking for written confirmation from the firms that they will pay the remaining difference at a later date.
More than 40 companies have reported that they had paid the March wages with the existing rate, according to the ministry.
Lim said the government will seek ways to protect its firms from suffering undue damages in the standoff.
A businessman who owns a factory at the complex told the VOA Korean Service he is worried about the impact of further productivity slowdowns if the two sides fail to reach an agreement in the near future.
The business owners plan to hold a meeting Tuesday to discuss the situation.
Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report.