S. Korea rolls out support measures for companies forced out of Kaesong

The South Korean government said Friday it would provide a package of measures, such as lending factory sites free of charge for a year, to minimize damage to more than 100 South Korean firms withdrawn from the joint industrial park across the border.

A special government task team, headed by Lee Suk-joon, the top official in charge of government policy coordination at the Prime Minister's Office, came up with support measures for 124 South Korean companies, which had to leave behind their production lines earlier this month after Pyongyang's decision to deport them all from the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

The government said it would provide companies with factory sites in the South if they are struggling to find alternative ones free of charge for the first one year and will provide such sites at a 50 percent discount for the next two years.

"The government has been responding to companies' difficulties through one-on-one support services in a timely manner," said Lee during the task team's third meeting on assisting the companies.

The official said the government had received 291 cases of complaints from the companies and had so far resolved 133 of them. "The government is working actively to resolve the rest," added Lee.

Another support measure allows the companies to hire additional foreign workers, 40 percent more than the legal quota.

The South Korean government decided to at least temporarily shut down the operation of the joint industrial complex in North Korea on Feb. 10 in response to Pyongyang's nuclear test and long-range rocket launch. A day after Seoul's decision, Pyongyang expelled all 124 South Korean firms from the joint industrial park in Kaesong.

The joint industrial park was the last remaining vestige of inter-Korean business cooperation until its closure earlier this month. Around 54,000 North Korean workers were employed by 124 South Korean firms with production facilities in Kaesong.

When the industrial park was closed for 160 days in 2013 in North Korea's protest against a joint military exercise between South Korean and U.S. forces here, the South Korean firms reported a combined loss of 1.05 trillion won (US$854.7 million).

The firms claim their damage will be greater this time considering the growth of their business operations over the years, saying that they may even seek a lawsuit if the government refuses to compensate them for their losses.

Source: Yon Hap News

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