Flash Holiday in Kaesong Threatening Relations

Jeong Jae Sung  |  2013-01-03 20:25
Fresh controversy is developing over an incident in which North Korean employees working in the Kaesong Industrial Complex were suddenly handed additional vacation days not mentioned in official documentation.

According to the Ministry of Unification on the 3rd, North Korea issued notification of all 2013 public holidays via the Kaesong Industrial Complex Management Committee in mid December. Under the notification, only January 1st was slated as a rest day. However, on the 30th of last month the Presidium of the Supreme Peoples Assembly suddenly declared additional public holidays on the 2nd and 3rd.

If North Korean workers attend work on a public holiday they are paid double time for their labor. According to the Ministry of Unification, workers receive $0.5 per hour on average, but this rises to $1 per hour on public holidays.

Despite the declared vacation days, on January 2nd around 1,300-1,400 North Korean workers came to work, while on the 3rd around 4,000 workers performed their official duties. Interestingly, although the North Korean authorities say that the additional public holidays had been declared by ordnance of the Supreme Peoples Assembly Presidium, there is no evidence of official documentation to this effect.

This is not the first such incident in recent months. Last year North Korea declared the existence of Mothers Day on November 16th and a formal mourning period on December 16th and 17th to commemorate the death of Kim Jong Il. Both were done at a late stage, and, as with January 2nd and 3rd, a portion of workers attended their companies on those days.

Wages for Kaesong Industrial Complex employees are paid directly in U.S. Dollars to the Guidance Bureau for Developing Central Special Economic Zone, which then distributes a small proportion of the money (some estimate that it is as low as 10%) to the employees themselves. In this way, approximately $300 million has been paid directly to the North since the opening of the industrial complex in December 2004.
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