NEW YORK, April 24 (UPI) -- The working conditions of North Korean workers in a factory park jointly run by North and South Korea were well below international standards, a new report from Human Rights Watch stated Wednesday.
The Kaesong Industrial Complex, an area close to the Korean demilitarized zone, has been the site of a deadlock over workers' wages since February.
It was then Pyongyang told South Korean companies North Korean authorities would unilaterally raise the monthly minimum wage of workers from $70.35 to $74.
Seoul has warned South Korean companies against complying with North Korea's demands, but according to Yonhap 18 out of 124 companies were acting independently and complying with North Korea in some way.
Human Rights Watch stated some South Korean firms were complying as a protective measure against more penalties from North Korea.
In 2013, Kaesong was closed for five months due to rising tensions between North and South Korea.
Laws at Kaesong dictate South Korean employers to pay salaries directly to workers but North Korea mandates workers submit their salaries to the government for distribution.
This system of "opaque and unaccountable arrangements" makes it difficult to assess whether workers will benefit from the proposed raise in wages, Human Rights Watch stated.
The earnings North Korean workers are allowed to take home, however, are only a small fraction of their total salaries, the NGO said.