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NGO urges solution to N.Korean foreign labor exploitation
Russia, Qatar, Kuwait and Malaysia enable N.Korean government to exploit workers

Governments of countries where North Korean laborers are employed should do more to address exploitative conditions, according to a new report from the People for Successful Corean Reunification (PSCORE), a human rights focused NGO.

The group conducted interviews with 20 North Korean defectors in summer this year who have experience working in numerous countries including Russia, Kuwait, Malaysia, China and Qatar. They asked questions about selection processes, wages, working and living conditions.

The report’s purpose is to encourage countries which are hiring North Koreans to provide proper working environments. Throughout the 60 page document, PSCORE also urged the international community to resolve exploitation by the North Korean government, which violates workers’ rights and generates income for the regime.

“In 2014, the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) – established during the 22nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2013 – released a ground breaking report about the atrocious state of human rights within North Korea,” the report writes.

“However, one aspect of the state’s exploitation of its citizens not mentioned is North Korea’s export of labour,” it adds.

The report adds that sanctions pressure on the North has made the export of labor a more important revenue stream, with an estimated currently 6000 – 150,000 North Koreans laborers working in over 16 countries.

The estimated number of laborers is about twice the 2011 number when Kim Jung Un took the office.

The report also sheds further light on how potential overseas laborers are selected, with loyalty and family necessary characteristics for selection.

“In order to prevent labourers from defecting while abroad, applicants are screened according to three primary conditions: age, family and loyalty. Immediate family serves as collateral to incentivize the obedience of labourers while abroad,” the report reads.

While workers expect they could make relatively good wages, the reality is often different as Russia, Qatar, Kuwait and Malaysia allow the North Korean government to monitor the workers in their territories, repatriating laborers who escape from work areas.

As a result, most workers only can get 10 percent of their original wage when they arrive back in North Korea. The rest of the money flows to the North Korean government and high ranking officials.

“Up until 2000, wages were given through vouchers called donpyos, which could only be used at jae-sso(“Russian store”) in North Korea. The jae-sso would be stocked with assorted household items that could be exchanged for donpyos, which would be given to the families of labourers instead of wages,” the report claims.

Working and living conditions are also reportedly very poor, and depend on industry sector and social status. Manual workers generally work from 6 am to midnight with a short break at lunch time. They also have few holidays, so many countries prefer North Koreans due to the cost-effectiveness.

The North Korean government also takes laborers’ passports away from them as soon as they arrive in their destination countries.

By: Hyun-bi Park | News Source