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Report: North Korean forced laborers dying at high rates

Unsafe work sites, disease and bad working conditions are blamed.

By Elizabeth Shim
Report: North Korean forced laborers dying at high rates
North Korean soldiers sit in the shade near the North Korean city Sinuiju, across the Yalu River from Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. Forced laborers in other countries are dying at high rates, according to a recent press report. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, June 24 (UPI) -- North Korean forced laborers are dying from accidents, committing suicide or falling prey to disease at work sites in Russia, Africa and the Middle East.

A Russian police officer who spoke to Radio Free Asia on the condition of anonymity said a North Korean worker who was subject to intense manual labor and was facing economic difficulties doused himself with a flammable substance on New Year's Day.

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After setting fire to himself, the man jumped from a building in Vladivostok, Russia, the source said.

The incident is not unique in a country where at least thousands of North Korean forced laborers toil away at work sites to earn money for the Kim Jong Un regime.

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In Pionersky, a town in Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia, located along the Baltic Sea, a North Korean worker died after falling eight stories from a building at a construction site on June 13, the unidentified Russian police source said.

In St. Petersburg, a North Korean worker fell two stories from another building at a work site. Local media reported his death, according to the source.

A total of 112 North Korean deaths have occurred among the population of forced laborers, from January 2015 to April 2016, according to RFA.

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That's an average of seven deaths a month.

From January to April alone an estimated 32 North Koreans are believed to have died at sites around the world.

Deaths were also reported in Angola in March, when about 10 North Korean workers died of yellow fever, according to RFA.

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An expert on North Korea who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the data on casualties have been combined from a number of sources and press reports.

Russia was the country with the greatest number of North Korean casualties with 61. A total of 46 deaths occurred in the Middle East and Africa, the expert said.

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