Background Briefing

VI. Appendix

Human Rights Watch’s Questions to the Ministry of Unification on Labor Conditions at the Kaesong Industrial Complex

Laws/Regulations Governing Kaesong

Procedural Concerns

  1. Who drafted/established the laws/regulations governing labor standards at Kaesong?
  2. If the laws/regulations were not publicly developed, i.e., by the South Korean or North Korean governments, then please explain the process by which they were developed. Were workers and employers consulted in their development, i.e., was it a tripartite process?
  3. We have been told that a Management Committee, made up of 47 South Korean and a few North Korean officials, enforces the laws/regulations governing Kaesong and that the committee has regular meetings with employers to monitor compliance.

a) Are workers also interviewed about working conditions to monitor compliance? If so, are workers interviewed off-site in a safe setting that ensures their anonymity and protects against possible employer retaliation?

b) Are monitoring/inspection visits unannounced, i.e., do employers know when committee members will be visiting their facilities?

c) How frequently do monitoring/inspection visits occur at each facility?

d) Are the findings/reports of these monitoring/inspection visits made public?

e) If violations are found after inspection/monitoring, what is the process for remediation and the imposition of fines?

f) Have any fines been imposed for noncompliance with the laws/regulations? If so, how much? Were they paid?

g) If a fine is imposed and paid to the Management Committee, to whom does the fine ultimately go, i.e., South Korea, North Korea, a private entity?

  1. We have been told that there were a few industrial accidents at Kaesong last year, but details have not been made public. Do the laws/regulations governing Kaesong provide for public recording and disclosure of industrial accidents or health and safety violations?

Substantive Concerns

Freedom of Association, Collective Bargaining, and the Right to Strike

  1. What protections do the laws/regulations provide for workers’ right to freedom of association, collective bargaining, and strike? For example:

a) Do the laws/regulations require employers to bargain collectively with elected worker representatives?

b) Do the laws/regulations ban employer retaliation, including demotion or dismissal, against workers for engaging in organizing or union activity?

c) Are there special protections for “workers’ representatives” to ensure that they are not retaliated against by employers for their work on behalf of workers?

d) Are workers allowed to strike, as long as they follow certain procedures set forth in the laws/regulations? [NOTE: We understand that this is currently an impossibility in the context of North Korea, but we raise it because the right to strike is encompassed in the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining—core workers’ rights.]

Sex Discrimination

1. What protections do the laws/regulations provide against sex discrimination, including sexual harassment?

a) Do the laws/regulations ban pregnancy-based discrimination, including mandatory pregnancy testing as a condition of employment?

Workers’ Compensation

1. Please explain the provisions of the laws/regulations governing workers’ compensation for workers injured on the job at Kaesong.

Hours of Work

1. Please explain the provisions of the laws/regulations governing hours of work.

a) How many hours may a worker work per week, not including overtime?

b) Are workers guaranteed days off each week? How many?

c) Are workers guaranteed paid vacation days? If so, how many vacation days are they guaranteed per year?

d) How many hours may a worker work per week, including overtime?

e) Can workers refuse to work overtime if they so desire or can a factory require overtime work?


1. Please explain the provisions of the laws/regulations governing minimum wage.

a) What is the minimum wage for Kaesong workers?

b) Do workers receive a higher hourly wage for overtime work?

c) Please explain the provisions governing payment of workers’ salaries.

d) To whom do Kaesong factory managers directly pay workers’ wages?

e) Who directly pays the workers their wages?

f) Does current practice comply with the terms of the laws/regulations?


1. Do the laws/regulations require employers to pay for health insurance for their workers or otherwise provide them with healthcare? If not:

a)  What, if any, arrangements exist for workers’ healthcare?

Child Labor

1. What is the minimum age of employment in Kaesong?

2. Are there certain tasks that workers under 18 are banned from performing in Kaesong? If so, what are they?

Know Your Rights

1. Do the laws/regulations require factories to post workers’ rights, as protected under the laws/regulations?

2. Do the laws/regulations require factories to post the fundamental rights set forth in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work?

Labor Law/Regulation Enforcement

1. We have been told that the Management Committee acts as a peacemaker for disputes, such as wage issues.

a) Do the laws/regulations provide for a complaint mechanism/process by which workers can submit complaints or concerns to the committee?

b) Do the laws/regulations ban retribution against workers for using the complaint mechanism/process?

c) In the event that the Management Committee is unable to resolve a dispute to the satisfaction of the parties, what other mediation, arbitration, or similar processes are available?

d) What issues have come before the Management Committee, to date?

2. We have been told that South Korean industrial safety inspectors visited Kaesong twice in 2005. Please explain how these officials coordinate inspection/monitoring with the Management Committee on issues related to workplace health and safety.  

a) What monitoring/inspection procedures did the South Korean industrial safety inspectors follow?

b) Are the inspection reports of the South Korean industrial safety inspectors publicly available?

Terms and Conditions of Employment

Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining

1. We have heard reports that workers’ representatives at Kaesong are in constant dialogue with employers. How are these workers’ representatives selected?

a) If workers vote for them, how is the election conducted? Are votes cast through secret ballot or openly?

b) If management selects them, how is the selection made? Who is consulted during the selection process?

2.   How many workers’ representatives are there at each factory?

3.    For how long does each workers’ representative serve in that position?

4.    Are the workers’ representatives also employees of the factories whose workers they represent? If not, for whom do they work?

5.    What issues have workers’ representatives typically raised with management?

6.   Have workers’ representatives sought to negotiate collective agreements with terms above and beyond those provided in the laws/regulations governing Kaesong?

7.    Are there worker committees at Kaesong factories to represent the interests of workers? If so:

a) How are these committees selected? (Same questions as 1(a) and 1(b))

b) Do factory managers also serve on these committees?

c) Same questions as 3, 5, and 6, adapted to the context of worker committees.


Hours of Work

1. How long is the typical shift for Kaesong workers?

2. How often do Kaesong workers work overtime?

3. How many days per week do most Kaesong workers work?



1. What is the average hourly wage of Kaesong workers?

2. What percentage of workers’ wages is retained by the North Korean government?


1. Do Kaesong factories provide for workers’ healthcare? If so:

a) What is the cost to workers?


Sex Discrimination

1. Have you heard any reports of sexual harassment?

2. Do Kaesong factories have procedures in place to minimize the number of pregnant women hired, for example, through mandatory pregnancy testing prior to hiring?

Child Labor

1. Have there been any reports of children under the minimum age of employment working at Kaesong?

2. Have there been any reports of children under 18 performing dangerous tasks at Kaesong?

Know Your Rights

1. Are workers’ rights, as protected by governing laws/regulations, posted in Kaesong factories?

2. Are the fundamental rights set forth in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work posted at Kaesong factories?