[THE INVESTOR] South Korea‘s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will do their part to stimulate cross-border economic cooperation once Seoul and Pyongyang normalize relations, a local business lobby group said on May 13.
Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business (KBIZ) Chairman Park Sung-taek said in a gathering of entrepreneurs late last week in Seoul that the historic summit on April 27 between the leaders of the two Koreas and the possibility of good relations with North Korea is ushering in a new era of peace.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed on key points to restore cooperative relations between the two sides and end hostilities on the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang also said it will move to do away with its nuclear weapons that had been a critical source of tension.
“Such a development will offer great opportunities for SMEs and lead not only to the reopening of the shuttered Kaesong Industrial Complex in the North, but the creation of other such joint economic cooperation zones,” the business federation chief said.
He said local SMEs will move to train and hire North Korean workers and play a leading role in strengthening inter-Korean ties.
Park pointed out that KBIZ has a unification preparation team that will formulate cross-border economic cooperation. He said if South Korean companies hire North Korean workers, money now being spent on foreign guest laborers can flow to the North instead of going abroad.
On the domestic front, the chairman said Seoul needs to adopt a flex-time work system that can offset some of the burden of the country’s minimum wage hike and reduction in working hours.
The country‘s minimum wage was marked up to 7,530 won (US$7.05) per hour from 6,470 won in 2017, with the statutory maximum working hours to be fixed at 52 hours a week from the current 68 hours starting in July.
“With the wage rise there is a critical need to change the way wages are given so companies can differentiate pay depending on regions and type of work,” the KBIZ chief emphasized. He added that unless such actions are taken companies will be hard pressed to raise wages this year.
By Park Ga-young and newswires (firstname.lastname@example.org)