North Korea’s economy has long been known to be built on forced labor, but as domestic production continues to diminish, Kim Jong Un is sending more and more workers to low paying positions in foreign countries.
A report issued earlier this year by the Seoul-based Data Base Center for North Korean Human Rights concludes there are roughly 50,000 North Korean laborers currently working under corrupt officials in Russia. The jobs are low paying, and officials from the N. Korean government will confiscate at least half and probably more of the pay.
“The North Korean government maintains strict controls over their workers’ profits, in some cases probably taking 90 percent of their wages,” Scott Synder, director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy at the Council of Foreign Relations, told Fox News. “This is an issue that has been going on under the radar for a long time.”
North Korean laborers toiled under harsh conditions to construct a soccer stadium in St. Petersburg, and a luxury apartment complex in Moscow. Some must endure horrible Soviet era style Russian logging camps. There have been casualties at each site.
North Korean workers toil in China as well, and are part of the unlucky force constructing Qatar’s World Cup stadium.
A Russian businessman told the New York Times that the corruption is only getting worse. The monthly pay rate for the laborers has increased from 17,000 rubles, or $283, to 50,000 rubles or $841, signaling an increased desire form North Korean brass to line their pockets. The laborers will see none of their pay raise.
“They don’t take holidays. They eat, work and sleep and nothing else. And they don’t sleep much,” the Russian boss said. “They are basically in the situation of slaves.”
The US is working in tandem with international humans rights groups to punish North Korean for the injustices, but as a nation-state, the United States’ main source of power are economic sanctions, which may not be punishing the right people.
“Secretary Tillerson has called on all countries to fully implement all U.N. Security Council resolutions, sever or downgrade diplomatic relations, and isolate [North Korea] financially, including through new sanctions, severing trade relationships, expelling guest workers, and banning imports from North Korea,” a State Department official told Fox News.
In the mean time, North Korean laborers endure a harsh less publicized version of human trafficking: state-sanctioned human trafficking.
“It’s very much analogous to any other type of trafficking situation across the world,” Snyder said. “Sex trafficking is done by shadowy, illegal organizations, but here we’re talking about state entities carrying out the trafficking. This really speaks to the nature of these regimes.”
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