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06SEOUL559 2006-02-17 09:41 2011-08-30 01:44 대외비 주한 미국 대사관
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INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0107
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RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
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RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC

제목 : 북한 경제: 개성 산업단지, 대박인가 쪽박인가?

요약

WE ASKED KIC FIRMS: "HOW'S BUSINESS?"

SHINWON GARMENTS: "PROFIT IS ALWAYS IN STYLE"

ROMANSON WATCHES: "CAN'T EVEN GIVE 'EM AWAY"

SJ TECH PUMP SEALS: "MORE THAN JUST MANUAL LABOR"

SONOKO CUISINEWARE: "WORKERS LOVE THE BENEFITS"

논평

원문


 C O N F I D E N T I A L SEOUL 000559 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EAP, EAP/K, EB/IFD/OIA AND EB/BTA 
NSC FOR CHA 
USDOC FOR 4431/IEP/OPB/EAP/MBMORGAN 
PASS USTR FOR CUTLER AND KI 
TREASURY FOR IA/ISA/BUCKLEY 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/17/2026 
TAGS: EINV PREL KS KN
SUBJECT: DPRK ECONOMY: KAESONG INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX, BOOM OR 
BUST? 
 
REF: 05 SEOUL 4653 
 
Classified By: DCM Mark Minton, for Reason 1.4 (b,d) 
 
SUMMARY 
------- 
 
¶1. (SBU) A round of discussions with South Korean companies 
operating in the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) in North 
Korea revealed that most are generally satisfied with 
business conditions at the project site.  While most firms 
profess to be making money or to be on track with their 
business plans, at least one is struggling, although not 
necessarily because of factors unique to the KIC.  While most 
South Korean companies operating in the KIC appear to have 
only a small part of their overall business riding on their 
North Korean operations, others look like they are betting 
their future on KIC success. 
 
¶2. (C) North Korean workers are reported to be capable, 
reliable, and amenable to changing requirements.  Some 
employers are able to manage their workers directly, while 
others work through DPRK intermediaries.  While no concrete 
figures are available, it appears that the total monthly 
labor payment for KIC -- for some 4,200 North Korean 
employees -- totals around USD 242,000.  At USD 57.50 per 
person per month, cheap labor seems to be the single most 
attractive feature of the KIC for South Korean investors. 
 
¶3. (C) Some investors calculate that North Korean workers are 
about half as expensive as Chinese laborers, while their 
productivity is about 70-80 percent of the Chinese level, 
making the DPRK workers a relative bargain.  Another 
frequently-cited advantage of the KIC location is its 
proximity to South Korean markets, allowing for completion of 
last-minute orders. 
 
¶4. (C) If KIC employees can serve as a metric for the DPRK 
population in general, the overall DPRK food situation seems 
to have improved over the last few years.  KIC workers appear 
to consider employment at the complex to be prestigious and 
valuable work, and the workers express appreciation for the 
fringe benefits they receive.  No KIC employers, however, 
know the answer to the question of how much of their monthly 
wage payments actually makes it into the pockets of KIC 
workers; the employees themselves are forbidden to discuss 
the topic with South Koreans.  End Summary. 
 
WE ASKED KIC FIRMS: "HOW'S BUSINESS?" 
------------------------------------- 
 
¶5. (SBU) Econoff recently met individually with executives 
from four companies active in the KIC: Romanson Corporation, 
ShinWon Corporation, SoNoKo and SJ Tech.  These companies 
represent a cross-section of the South Korean companies 
involved in the Pilot Phase of the KIC development.  Of the 
15 companies selected for the pilot phase, 11 companies have 
commenced operations, two are about to start operations, and 
two are awaiting the completion of their facilities. 
 
¶6. (U) The other seven companies currently operating in KIC 
are Samduck Trading (footwear), Buchon Industrial (wiring 
harnesses), Daehwa Fuel Pump (automotive parts), Hosan Ace 
(coils), Munchang Company (garments), Taesung Industrial 
(plastic containers) and JY Solutech (moldings).  The two 
companies poised to commence operations are Magic Micro 
(electronics), and TS (moldings).  The facilities of Youngin 
Electronics (electronics) and JC Com (cable connectors) 
facilities are scheduled to be completed soon. 
 
¶7. (SBU) The Ministry of Unification (MOU) is in the 
preliminary phases of selecting an additional 23 companies to 
invest in another small sub-section of the grand First Phase 
of the overall project -- essentially a second pilot phase. 
Construction of those facilities can be anticipated to get 
started within 2006, although that ambitious goal could slip. 
 According to press reports, MOU is also eager to move 
forward as soon as possible with the full First Phase of the 
KIC, which could incorporate as many as 40 additional 
factories, bringing the total to roughly 78 firms operating 
in the KIC, of a variety of sizes.  Site preparation 
construction work is currently ongoing for the full scope of 
the First Phase.  Some firms might begin to establish 
factories as part of that effort within 2007 -- again an 
ambitious goal, which could prove elusive. 
 
SHINWON GARMENTS: "PROFIT IS ALWAYS IN STYLE" 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
¶8. (SBU) ShinWon is a large garment manufacturer that has 
been listed on the Korea Stock Exchange since 1988.  The 
company's 2004 sales were USD 367 million, and in the first 
half of 2005, its reported sales totaled more than USD 150 
million.  ShinWon is an international company, with factories 
located in South Korea, China, Vietnam, Guatemala and 
Indonesia.  The company has operated its KIC facility since 
February 2005.  According to Lee Chang-yoon, President and 
CEO of ShinWon's Domestic Division, the value of the 
company's investment in KIC is approximately 4.5 million 
dollars. 
 
¶9. (SBU) ShinWon seems to have a successful business plan for 
its KIC operations, and Lee asserted that his company is in 
the KIC solely for business reasons.  In addition to the 
lower labor costs, manufacturing in the KIC also lets ShinWon 
avoid tariffs on shipments back to South Korea, and provides 
the company with a quick solution to meet surges in demand. 
ShinWon's KIC plant accounts for seven percent of the 
company's total production.  All of the KIC-produced apparel 
is sold in South Korea.  While the company's first fashion 
show -- held at KIC -- achieved some notoriety for featuring 
clothing that was reportedly too flashy for North Korean 
taste, an informal survey of our FSN staff indicates that 
ShinWon's KIC-manufactured lines are acceptable for the 
fashion-conscious South.  Most of ShinWon's designs are 
targeted towards young South Koreans. 
 
¶10. (SBU) ShinWon currently runs its KIC facility with only 
seven ROK managers supervising 330 DPRK workers.  According 
to Lee, because of the workers' productivity and the low 
labor costs, Shinwon plans to expand its KIC facility, from 
the current five assembly lines to 15 lines by the end of 
February 2006.  The company also plans to hire an additional 
500 North Korean workers to staff the new lines.  While Lee 
opined that the oft-heard estimates of 100,000 workers at KIC 
by 2007 could be met in the fullness of time, he scoffed at 
future estimates of 1,000,000 workers that have been 
suggested by former Unification Minister Chung and various 
officials at Hyundai Asan Corporation, which is doing most of 
the infrastructure work at KIC. 
 
¶11. (SBU) According to Lee, ShinWon is the only South Korean 
firm currently making money through operations at KIC.  He 
would not provide exact figures, but claimed that the KIC 
labor costs are less than half those at ShinWon's Chinese 
plants.  KIC companies must pay a minimum of USD 57.50 per 
worker per month.  That payment is composed of USD 50.00 for 
the wage component, and USD 7.50 as a social welfare 
contribution.  Additionally, all KIC companies provide a 
daily lunch or soup, and some use other material items as 
incentives for the employees.  Still, according to Lee, KIC 
workers are currently only about 70-80 percent as productive 
as their Chinese counterparts.  He described the North Korean 
workers as "naive but well-educated," and asserted that KIC 
worker productivity is certain to increase. 
 
¶12. (SBU) Lee claimed that nearly 40 percent of the 
(predominantly female) labor force at his plant has graduated 
from university.  He also noted that when ShinWon first began 
hiring at the KIC plant, the applicants were mostly in their 
twenties, but now the applicant pool appears to be growing 
older, with some applicants in their forties.  As other 
employers told us as well, Lee claimed that there is almost 
no turnover among ShinWon's KIC workers. 
 
¶13. (SBU) ShinWon's KIC managers directly supervise their 
workers, according to Lee.  He explained that there are no 
DPRK intermediaries who get involved in work schedules or 
requirements, but ShinWon does deal with workers' 
representatives on issues such as fringe benefits.  Lee said 
that ShinWon is widely acknowledged as providing more 
benefits than most of the KIC companies, including shower 
facilities and generous distribution of food, in addition to 
the lunch provided by most KIC companies. 
 
¶14. (C) When asked about the amount workers actually receive 
from the nominal monthly wage, ShinWon's Lee told us that he 
did know the take-home wages of his KIC employees.  He 
explained that DPRK authorities have explicitly forbidden 
discussions on that topic, and that even if asked, the North 
Korean workers will not answer.  Lee complained that ShinWon 
wants to set up its own payroll system, and has asked 
permission to do so from the DPRK authorities, but they have 
been denied permission. 
 
¶15. (C) Before Woori Bank opened a branch office in the KIC 
in December 2004, ShinWon -- like the other South Korean 
companies -- held off on making payments to North Korean 
authorities.  Since then, payments for worker salaries have 
been made in U.S. dollars to the Central Development Special 
Bureau office in the KIC.  ShinWon also paid in full their 
"arrears" to the DPRK authorities.  According to South 
Korea's Ministry of Unification, individual companies 
withdraw dollars themselves at the KIC Woori Bank facility, 
then transfer the funds to the DPRK-run liaison office.  With 
an estimated 4,200 North Koreans working in the various KIC 
factories at this time, and a minimum monthly wage of USD 
57.50, monthly cash payments made through the bank total 
approximately USD 242,000. 
 
ROMANSON WATCHES: "CAN'T EVEN GIVE 'EM AWAY" 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
¶16. (U) Romanson Corporation sells watches and jewelry, 
largely creating new designs in-house and jobbing out orders 
to plants around the world.  Most of the products are sold in 
Russia, other former Soviet Republics and countries around 
south and north Asia.  Among the companies we visited, 
Romanson seems to be the most unlikely model for a profitable 
venture.  As explained below, many of their decisions are 
puzzling when viewed in a business context.  End comment. 
 
¶17. (SBU) The KIC plant is run through a consortium of 
investors led by Romanson.  Romanson executive director Jang 
Ho-sun explained that the consortium started work on its KIC 
plant in January 2005, and began manufacturing operations in 
August.  The consortium was put together to take advantage of 
KIC's low labor costs, according to Jang.  He noted that 
there were no ideological or political reasons driving the 
decision to establish a facility in the KIC. 
 
¶18. (SBU) Jang, like ShinWon's Lee, told us that the cost of 
labor at the KIC plant was roughly half that of his company's 
Chinese plant.  However, much of what Romanson saves in 
reduced labor costs may be lost in the cost of maintaining a 
large number of South Korean managers at its KIC facility. 
The company has one of the highest South Korean 
manager-to-DPRK worker ratios we encountered, with 80 
managers supervising 560 workers.  In addition to South 
Korean-level wages, most companies must pay a "risk" premium 
to their South Korean managers -- as well as per diem and 
transportation costs -- for working at the KIC.  All South 
Korean managers commute for varying periods from Seoul to 
Kaesong. 
 
¶19. (SBU) While there are no plans to increase the size of 
Romanson's KIC facility, Jang predicted doubling his labor 
force to 1,000 workers.  Increasing the number of employees 
at this stage seems to be yet another counter-intuitive move 
by Romanson, as Jang lamented that, as a company, the firm is 
not meeting overall revenue targets.  However, he professed 
confidence that the company's sales will increase, especially 
the KIC-made watches. 
 
¶20. (SBU) According to company officials, Romanson's annual 
sales are approximately 900,000 watches, of which 25 percent 
are currently produced at its KIC facility.  Company 
officials hope to increase KIC-produced sales to 50 percent 
of the total this year, and to 80 percent within two years. 
Jang did not elaborate on whether Romanson would concurrently 
reduce other overseas production if KIC production met these 
goals. 
 
¶21. (C) Following the meeting with Jang, Econoff stopped at 
the in-house store located in Romanson's building.  When the 
store clerk was asked about a garish set of commemorative 
watches, she explained that the set of watches -- named 
"tong-il," or unification -- was made to mark the beginning 
of operations at Romanson's KIC plant.  Three nine-watch 
sets, encased in a traditional Korean lacquered box, were 
produced for the occasion.  One set was presented to DPRK 
leader Kim Jong-il, one to South Korean President Roh 
Moo-hyun, and the last set was presented to, but declined by, 
an unnamed South Korean cabinet minister, according to the 
clerk.  We assume this unnamed minister to be former 
Unification Minister Chung Dong-young. 
 
¶22. (SBU) According to Jang, Romanson's KIC managers are not 
permitted to directly supervise their DPRK employees. 
Instead, they supervise the work force through a layer of 
North Korean managers.  As all the companies do, Romanson 
pays its workers the minimum wage, and company officials 
claimed they make no other payments or "contributions" to 
DPRK officials in order to run their plant.  Jang was 
satisfied with the quality of his DPRK employees, explaining 
that the workforce was stable, and that only two have left 
since the Romanson plant opened. 
 
¶23. (SBU) In Jang's opinion, the food situation in the DPRK 
must have improved.  He told us that when North Korean 
workers began reporting to Romanson's factory last fall, they 
appeared to have visual symptoms associated with 
malnutrition.  Jang commented that the faces of those first 
employees were ashen, but that more-recently-hired employees 
are in better shape and do not appear to be suffering from 
nutritional problems.  We were shown photographs of the 
various KIC plants at most meetings.  The North Korean 
workers all appeared robust and seemed to be in good shape. 
 
SJ TECH PUMP SEALS: "MORE THAN JUST MANUAL LABOR" 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
¶24. (SBU) SJ Tech claims to have been the first South Korean 
company to sign up for the KIC -- in September 2004 -- and in 
fact, the building address is 1-1 Kaesong Industrial Village. 
 According to company president Yoo Chang-geun, SJ Tech was 
contemplating a joint venture operation with a U.S. 
manufacturer in 2004.  The two companies were originally 
thinking about expanding into China, but decided on KIC 
instead.  While Yoo was originally uninterested in KIC, he 
changed his mind because of the low cost of labor, the common 
language, and the South Korean government's investment 
guarantee -- with a ceiling of 2.5 million dollars at the 
time. 
 
¶25. (SBU) Since that initial decision, SJ Tech has invested 
USD 8 million in its KIC plant to date, nearly double the 
amount covered by South Korean government guarantees against 
political risk for investment in KIC.  In January 2006, the 
South Korean government increased the guarantee to five 
billion won (approximately USD 5 million.  In comparison, 
non-KIC South Korean companies are covered up to one billion 
won against political risk for investments elsewhere in the 
DPRK.  Yoo's company produces a range of industrial products, 
but its KIC plant produces rubber rings used in hydraulic 
seals.  Yoo explained that all inputs for KIC operations are 
sent from South Korea, and that final assembly of the 
hydraulic seals takes place in South Korea. 
 
¶26. (SBU) SJ Tech's KIC operations require a degree of 
technical expertise.  Therefore, the company asked DPRK 
authorities to recruit employees with technical backgrounds 
or training.  Despite the fact that nearly half of the new 
employees showed up with a technical degree, SJ Tech 
reportedly had to train them for nearly one year before they 
could begin full-scale production.  In comparison, Yoo told 
us that SJ Tech's South Korean workers require only a 
five-month session to receive equivalent training.  While 
most anecdotal accounts of KIC operations include the 
assertion that the South Korean firms only use low-tech, 
outdated, or worn-out equipment in Kaesong, during our visit 
Yoo showed a flashy PowerPoint presentation on SJ Tech's KIC 
operations.  The equipment featured in the presentation 
appeared to be modern, functioning and well-maintained. 
 
¶27. (SBU) According to SJ Tech's projections, the KIC factory 
will reach the break-even point sometime in 2007.  According 
to Yoo, only five percent of SJ Tech's overall sales come 
from its KIC operations, and the seals produced there are 
sold only in the domestic South Korean market.  SJ Tech's 
DPRK labor force has 143 workers, with five South Korean 
managers -- down from the 20 they started with in May 2005. 
While he does not have plans to expand his KIC operations, 
Yoo told us that he is happy with his decision to invest 
there.  Among the executives we met, Yoo was the most 
tight-lipped about KIC salaries and benefits.  He comes 
across as a savvy businessman who is concerned only about the 
bottom line. 
 
SONOKO CUISINEWARE: "WORKERS LOVE THE BENEFITS" 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
 
¶28. (SBU) Kim Suck-chul, owner of SoNoKo Cuisineware, 
formerly known as LivingArt, is a gritty businessman with 
three decades of experience in the kitchenware business. 
SoNoKo (derived from "South and North Korea") is the 
restructured version of LivingArt, which was dissolved when 
Kim's partner failed to make promised investments.  According 
to Kim, this unnamed partner asked him to participate in the 
KIC venture because of his extensive experience.  Kim claimed 
to have invested USD 3.5 million of his own money and said 
that he had taken a USD 2.3 million loan from the 
Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund.  Kim did not elaborate on the 
unnamed partner's contributions. 
 
¶29. (SBU) The LivingArt company was the first to bring 
KIC-produced goods to South Korea for sale.  In fact, its 
first run of KIC-made kitchenware --  simple pots and pans -- 
was an instant sentimental hit in South Korea, selling out as 
part of a flashy promotional event at the prestigious Lotte 
Department Store on the first day.  The company's 2005 sales 
totaled USD 2 million, all in South Korean sales.  Since 
then, the KIC plant had to suspend operations for an extended 
period in 2005, and is currently operating at reduced 
capacity.  While Kim conceded the going remains rough, he 
claimed that he is starting a second production line at his 
plant.  SoNoKo's products are currently sold in Mexico 
because of his "long-standing contacts and experience there," 
but Kim spoke longingly of his target market -- Europe.  Kim 
claimed that there would be no problems with "rules of 
origin" or "made in Kaesong" labels in the European markets. 
 
¶30. (C) Kim explained to us that, because his was the first 
company to actually talk with DPRK officials about operating 
in the KIC, he had a difficult time, and he complained that 
he had received little support from the South Korean 
government.  Kim went on to tell us that because of these 
problems, he suffered delays in the start of production at 
his KIC plant resulting in his failure to produce samples for 
trade shows in early 2005, denying him any significant 
international sales that year. 
 
¶31. (SBU) Kim explained that he would soon be traveling 
abroad to display his KIC-made kitchenware at this year's 
trade shows.  He claimed that if he could get "USD 30-45 
million worth of orders," at these trade shows, he could 
operate at full capacity and produce nearly 200,000 sets of 
kitchenware per year.  That, he told us, would allow him to 
turn the company around and make a profit. 
 
¶32. (SBU) SoNoKo's operations are limited to its KIC factory, 
with 380 DPRK workers and seven South Korean managers.  The 
ratio was originally 270 to 13, but Kim explained that 
increased productivity from the DPRK workers permitted a 
reduction in the number of more expensive South Korean 
employees.  According to Kim, when the DPRK workers first 
started, their productivity level was about 20 percent of 
South Koreans in the 1970's and 1980's, when a viable South 
Korean kitchenware industry last existed.  Kim estimated that 
his workers at KIC are now up to about 60 percent of the ROK 
productivity level. 
 
¶33. (SBU) SoNoKo's managers also deal directly with their 
DPRK employees, and Kim told us that requests to work 
overtime are handled painlessly.  According to Kim, overtime 
is booked at time-and-a-half, with settlements made along 
with the regular monthly wage payments.  Like the other 
companies, SoNoKo's main form of compensation given directly 
to the employee -- usually for overtime work -- seems to be 
providing extra food or other material reward. 
 
¶34. (C) Kim, like the other executives we interviewed, told 
us that he has no idea how much of the cash monthly wage paid 
to the DPRK authorities is actually taken home by his 
workers.  Unlike the others, Kim speculated that it could be 
possible that the workers receive no pay at all out of the 
monthly payments.  But, he added, even if the workers are 
getting no pay at all, they are probably content "just to 
receive food, clothing, and a comfortable working 
environment, in addition to housing provided by the DPRK." 
 
¶35. (SBU) Like Romanson's director Jang, Kim believes that 
the food situation has improved in the DPRK.  He recalled 
that when the plant first opened, his North Korean workers 
were adding barley to their rice at lunch to make the meal go 
further.  Now, they bring only rice in their boxed lunches, 
indicating that they are somehow getting more food -- either 
through the Public Distribution System or through market 
purchases. 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
¶36. (U) Although admittedly a second-hand look, our 
interviews revealed that KIC profitability neither lives up 
to the very rosy view of some South Korean champions of 
greater inter-Korean cooperation, nor falls within the 
dismissive "wasted investment" view of some Seoul-based 
critics of North-South engagement.  Although there are signs 
that some KIC investment decisions are driven by 
sentimentality or a desire to accelerate reunification, we 
also gained the impression that the majority of the 
businessmen directly involved in KIC work are making credible 
business decisions, motivated primarily by hoped-for profits. 
 If reports of increasing levels of productivity are 
accurate, it is possible that the KIC's North Korean labor 
force could provide South Korean companies a lucrative option 
relative to outsourcing from China, fairly soon.  In short, 
however, it remains to be seen whether the KIC can be 
declared a business success. 
 
¶37. (C) There are signs that some North Korean citizens are 
being exposed to market principles in the KIC to some degree 
or another, and that a limited number of workers are learning 
advanced work skills.  As they receive decent treatment and 
tangible fringe beniefits from their South Korean employers, 
at least those North Koreans working in the KIC may be 
starting to understand the economic value of their work. 
VERSHBOW