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Minimum wage at N. Korean special economic zone set at US$80: source

All Headlines 11:30 September 08, 2011

SEOUL, Sept. 8 (Yonhap) -- The minimum monthly wage for workers at a North Korean special economic zone has been set at US$80, a source familiar with the reclusive state said Thursday, a small enough sum that could attract Chinese firms to invest there.

North Korea designated Rason as a special economic zone in 1991 with the aim of developing it into a regional transportation hub. Amid few signs of progress, the country broke ground in June on a joint project to develop it into an economic and trade zone with China. The northeastern port city borders both China and Russia.

"According to a booklet I obtained on the tax policy of the Rason economic and trade zone, the minimum monthly wage for workers is $80," said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Under a North Korean law for the Rason economic zone, revised in January last year, the minimum monthly wage for local employees at foreign firms is set jointly by the employer and the municipal authorities.

The amount is higher than the $63.814 recently set as the minimum wage for North Korean workers at the inter-Korean industrial park in Kaesong, the North's western city bordering South Korea, but less than the average salary of Chinese workers. According to the South's state-run Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), Chinese workers are paid a minimum of $167 per month.

Experts say this wage gap could attract Chinese investors to Rason, as they have already started showing signs of relocating operations to Vietnam, Indonesia and other countries with cheaper labor than China.

The booklet also contains details of Rason's tax policy, including a five-year property tax exemption for buildings purchased through private funds and a corporate income tax rate of up to 14 percent, according to the source.

"The booklet was made by Rason's tax bureau in July-August to introduce foreigners to its tax policy," the source said.

hague@yna.co.kr
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