The Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC)’s South Korean workers rallied on Wednesday to request that the government pass a special law to compensate them for their lost properties following North Korea’s liquidation of South Korean assets in the area.
However, on the day following the rally, Seoul’s Ministry of Unification (MoU) turned down their request, stating that the law’s enactment “may arouse unnecessary disputes,” Yonhap News Agency reported on Thursday.
“As written in the South Korean constitution, should the government infringe or restrict citizens’ property rights, they are lawfully bound to provide some sort of reasonable compensation, which they are refusing to do,” Jeong Ki-seop, the chairperson of the KIC committee for emergency measures told Newsis.
Jeong was one of more than 1,100 KIC workers and subcontractors rallying on Wednesday at Imjingak Mangbaedan Altar, the monument lying next to the highway leading to Kaesong, to request government compensation.
However, the MoU official dismissed the demonstrators’ request.
“Enactment of a special law may arouse unnecessary disputes,” the MoU official said according to Yonhap News Agency.
“It is believed that looking for the resolution inside the boundaries of existing laws would bring a speedy recovery for business as well as minimize (financial) damage.”
The MoU official is also known to have emphasized the government’s ongoing efforts to prepare effective and quick measures, while requesting that companies help the government in resolving the situation.
Choi Jae-ho, the chief of a KIC clothing company, said he is infuriated with government’s lack of concrete steps.
“Do we really have to burn ourselves to death with gasoline to make changes?” Choi told NK News.
“How are we, mostly in our 50s, workers and company owners suppose to live with 1.29 million won (about $ 1,100) in unemployment benefits and 650,000 won (about $550) in job-seeker’s allowances that the government proposed?”
Choi said that even the compensation mentioned is not applicable to the workers who had to resign from the companies at the government’s suggestion.
“None of the workers have received a single Korean won yet. What has the government done so far?” said Choi.
A political researcher said it will be very challenging to pass any special laws, due to the upcoming general election a month from now.
“It will be close to impossible for the incumbent lawmakers to gather at the National Assembly as they are running re-election campaigns,” Ha Seung-ju, chief of the Northeast Asian Political Economic Research Center told NK News.
“At least the MoU could have given a definitive answer to companies, that even without the enactment of the special law, the government would provide comprehensive coverage of companies’ losses. That would’ve left room for compromise between the government and companies,” said Ha.
The rally held on Wednesday was not the first gathering of South Korean workers. The KIC committee for emergency measures held a press conference the day after the liquidation of Kaesong, announcing a plan to visit North Korea sometime after March 21 to prevent the country from freezing their assets.
Featured image: KIC, fta.go.kr
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