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North Korea's slave labor force is growing, U.N. special rapporteur says

Hundreds of North Koreans are forced to work as long as 20 hours a day while the regime embezzles hundreds of millions of dollars from their pay.

By Elizabeth Shim
North Koreans work in the fields near the North Korean city of Sinuiju, across the Yalu River from Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. North Korea employs 50,000 forced laborers abroad to earn the regime billions of dollars, and the labor force has grown, according to the U.N. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/d724d47f7c9fb03930b9152a2376f6fb/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
North Koreans work in the fields near the North Korean city of Sinuiju, across the Yalu River from Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. North Korea employs 50,000 forced laborers abroad to earn the regime billions of dollars, and the labor force has grown, according to the U.N. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- The number of North Korean workers enslaved abroad is growing, and many are forced to work as long as 20 hours a day while the regime embezzles hundreds of millions of dollars from their pay.

Marzuki Darusman, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, said the growing exploitation of North Korean workers by the regime in Pyongyang "reflects the really tight financial and economic situation in the North," CNN reported.

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The workers are typically engaged in manual labor at construction sites, or are toiling away in mining, logging or textiles factories.

In February, one North Korean worker who escaped a construction site in Kuwait said the North's system of slave labor earns the regime more than $1.8 billion annually, and that Kim Jong Un alone has spent $640 million in luxury goods, villas and fine cuisine in recent years.

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On Wednesday, Darusman said the complicity of host countries and companies that employ North Korean slave labor is unacceptable and that they should "report any abuses to the local authorities, which have the obligation to investigate thoroughly, and end such partnership."

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According to South Korean government data, the number of North Koreans working abroad, while earning nearly nothing to $150 a month, is about 50,000. They are assigned to countries in the Middle East, Central Asia and even Europe, but most are employed in China and Russia.

South Korean news agency Yonhap reported Darusman also urged the referral of North Korea human rights abuses to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. In addition to the practice of enslaving North Koreans abroad, Pyongyang's top offenses include caste-based discrimination, summary executions, arbitrary detention and torture.

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In 2014, the U.N.'s Commission of Inquiry panel asked for prosecution at the ICC, but the action was opposed by China and Russia at the U.N. Security Council.

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