South Korea said Thursday that the volume of inter-Korean trade hit a record high in 2014 on growth in exchanges at a joint industrial complex in the North despite Seoul's punitive sanctions on Pyongyang.
The value of inter-Korean trade reached US$2.343 billion last year, up 106.2 percent from a year earlier, according to a 2015 white paper on unification issued by the South Korean Ministry of Unification.
The ministry said that an increase in inter-Koren trade mainly resulted from a rise in exchanges at the Kaesong Industrial Complex even as Seoul has imposed punitive sanctions that bans economic exchanges with North Korea since 2010 following the North's deadly sinking of a South Korean warship.
The joint factory park, which opened in 2004, is the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation. It has served as a major revenue source for the cash-strapped communist North, while South Korea has utilized cheap but skilled North Korean laborers.
A total of 124 South Korean small- and medium-sized enterprises have hired about 53,000 North Korean workers at the industrial complex in the border city of the same name.
The ministry said that the value of inter-Korean trade made at the complex reached $2.33 billion in 2014, up 106.5 percent from the previous year. The volume accounted for 99.8 percent of the total inter-Korean trade, according to South Korea's (Yonhap) News Agency.
The two Koreas have been embroiled in a wage dispute as North Korea has unilaterally decided to hike the minimum monthly wage by 5.18 percent to US$74 starting in March.
Seoul has not accepted the North's unilateral move, saying that Pyongyang violated a 2004 agreement that calls for the two sides to set the wages together. The wage cap has been set at 5 percent per year. Seoul warned that violators would be penalized.