South Korean official backtracks on claim Kaesong funded nukes

Hong Yong-pyo had previously said 70 percent of North Korean wages were being used to develop nuclear weapons.
By Elizabeth Shim  |  Feb. 15, 2016 at 9:29 AM
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SEOUL, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- A senior South Korean official is taking criticism after backtracking on an earlier statement regarding the reapportionment of Kaesong factory wages toward the North's nuclear weapons program.

Seoul's Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo had said Friday the government has classified documents showing factory revenue was being allocated in North Korea to financing its universally condemned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program and that the papers could not be made public.

On Sunday during a television appearance Hong said the documents contained proof 70 percent of wages paid to North Korean workers were being rechanneled to two offices of Pyongyang's Workers' Party for use in weapons development, The Korea Herald reported.

On Monday Hong said at a parliamentary meeting that, "Some parts involving numbers were misrepresented. It was partly my fault, I wasn't talking about evidence but meant to explain in detail about our concerns."

Hong also said that there is no decisive evidence Kaesong funds were used in the North to finance nuclear weapons, Yonhap reported.

The South Korean minister's contradictory statements come in the wake of accusations from opposition party lawmakers that the administration could be found in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions if Seoul had continued Kaesong operations while knowing how the funds were being misused.

Prior to its shutdown last week, the Kaesong Industrial Complex employed more than 50,000 workers and paid them $100 million in annual wages.

Most of that money, however, went to the Kim Jong Un regime, a North Korean defector said Monday.

Kim Tae-san, a former light industry manager in North Korea, said during a Seoul parliamentary seminar that the lion's share of the $80 monthly wage the average Kaesong worker received in compensation went to the regime, and that a worker's take-home pay was less than $5 per month, Yonhap reported.

That money is hardly enough to buy daily necessities and is just enough to buy 2 pounds of rice in the gray markets, Kim said.

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