Qatar firm fires 90 North Korean workers, cites labor law violations

The firm initially requested all North Koreans to leave, but upon the request of North Korean officials fired less than half of the labor force.

By Elizabeth Shim

DOHA, Qatar, May 8 (UPI) -- A construction firm in Qatar fired 90 North Korean workers on Monday, citing repeated violations of labor laws and poor treatment of the workers by their North Korean supervisors.

According to a two-page document dated May 3, representatives of Qatar's Construction Development Company, or CDC, claimed North Korean construction supervisors were providing food to their workforce that was "below standards."


"Site health and safety procedures are ignored regularly," the report read, according to Voice of America.

The firm also criticized the North Koreans for forcing their exploited labor force to work more than 12 hours a day, a violation of Qatar's labor laws.

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South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported the CDC initially requested all North Koreans to leave, but upon the request of North Korean officials fired less than half of the labor force, or 90 out of 192 workers.

CDC also claimed in the meeting minutes the violation of safety standards had led to the death of at least one North Korean worker.

The Qatari firm said the remaining labor force should adhere to higher standards and will be removed immediately if caught violating health and safety laws that include drinking alcohol on the premises, running afoul of traffic laws and stealing on-site building materials.


There are 3,000 North Korean construction workers in Qatar alone, according to the Chosun Ilbo. They are employees of Genco, a North Korea overseas construction company created from the 2010 merger of two North Korean firms, Sudo Construction and Namgang Construction. Many workers in the firm are military personnel back home in North Korea.

Exploitative conditions overseas have recently discouraged North Koreans from work abroad.

In February, a North Korean defector who escaped a life of forced labor, said the North Korean leadership sends tens of thousands of slave laborers to construction sites in the Middle East and elsewhere.

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He said North Korea's system of slave labor earns the regime more than $1.8 billion annually.

An unnamed North Korean laborer, according to the Chosun Ilbo, said he is paid $750 monthly, but only receives a fraction, or $100 of the amount.

The rest, he said, goes to the North Korean state.

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