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Report: North Korean laborers in Russia tortured for escape attempts

Suspects are repatriated to North Korea, where they face prison sentences, according to a source.

By
Elizabeth Shim
Chinese public service notices regarding North Korea are posted next to a military outpost on the Yalu River across from North Korea in Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. North Korean laborers who attempt to escape work sites in Russia are abused, according to a South Korean press report.
 File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
Chinese public service notices regarding North Korea are posted next to a military outpost on the Yalu River across from North Korea in Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. North Korean laborers who attempt to escape work sites in Russia are abused, according to a South Korean press report. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, June 20 (UPI) -- North Korean forced laborers in Russia who attempt to escape are tortured before they are repatriated.

A source who spoke to South Korean news service Daily NK on the condition of anonymity said North Koreans who try to flee work sites are persecuted in Russia at the hands of guards.

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Some of the North Koreans endure bodily torture that includes the severing of the Achilles tendon, the source said.

The torture takes place in Russia before the laborers are forcibly returned to the North.

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The human rights abuses take place in order "to make an example of North Koreans workers who are caught trying to escape," the source said.

Other punishment includes forcing the suspect to lie down while an excavator, used for heavy construction, runs over his legs.

"Ruthless human rights violations are being committed," the source added.

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More troubles lie ahead for North Koreans after repatriation.

The suspect and his entire family are taken to a political prison camp as a warning to others.

The physical retribution against forced laborers who attempt to escape is taking place at work sites where workers are relatively free to move about large-scale construction sites.

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Those liberties are being offset by dire punishment so potential defectors don't get any ideas, the source said.

Surveillance guards at the sites try to locate dissatisfied workers early. Sometimes they are repatriated while being told they are being "sent on vacation."

It is unclear whether the Russian government has received notice of North Korea activities within their borders, but in February Moscow and Pyongyang agreed on the repatriation of "illegal persons."

Svetlana Gannushkina, a prominent Russian rights activist, had said the deal is tantamount to a defector repatriation agreement.

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