In an amazing and hard-to-believe irony, totalitarian state North Korea has exported its gulag-style forced labor camps to foreign countries such as China, Russia and Poland. Even worse, the 50,000 North Koreans in these forced labor camps are paid a tiny pittance to work long hours, while the host government pays fat foreign currency fees to the North Korean government for their labor.
A new special report on North Korea was presented to the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Wednesday of this week by Marzuki Darusman, the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in North Korea.
Forced labor system source of foreign cash for North Korea
According to the accounts in the report, employers in these foreign countries only pay the North Korean laborers an average of $120 to $150 per month, but pay the government very large fees relating to the labor contracts.
Conditions for laborers are often poor, with workers forced to work up to 20 hours per day with just one or two days of rest per month. In some cases, if workers missed monthly quotas they were not paid at all.
The UN report also claimed that the itinerant North Korean workers are not given sufficient food, safety measures are often inadequate and accidents are typically not reported to local authorities. Moreover, workers are under constant surveillance by North Korean security agents and the host countries rarely monitor or intervene in the conditions faced by forced into labor.
Of note, the jobs are given to workers based on their social class, with poorer workers given the more dangerous and difficult work.
Darusman explained to the UN assembly that this forced labor abroad system makes it possible for North Korea to get around international sanctions preventing it from accessing foreign currency. However, the totalitarian regime brings in between $1.2 billion and $2.3 billion per year with its foreign forced labor camps according to Darusman’s report.
More than 90% of the forced labor workers were sent to China and Russia, but North Korea also shipped off workers to Algeria and Nigeria and even European nations including Poland.
In one piece of good news, the report noted one firm in Qatar had dismissed 90 North Korean workers because of alleged “repeated violations of domestic labor legislation.” The complaint alleged supervisors had been forcing workers to work more than 12 hours per day.