100,000 North Korea workers facing human rights violations overseas

By Elizabeth Shim  |  Sept. 20, 2016 at 1:23 PM
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SEOUL, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- North Korea's overseas deployment of forced laborers may have grown in recent months, according to a South Korean government think tank.

Kim Jong Un's regime may be sending more laborers overseas, 110,000-120,000 in total, to earn foreign currency in 20-40 countries, South Korean news service Newsis reported.

A separate estimate by the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights issued last December indicated Pyongyang was deploying at least 50,000 people to earn up to $300 million.

The data from the Korea Institute for National Unification shared Tuesday with South Korean parliamentarians was aggregated from various South Korean and international organizations, government agencies and research institutions, according to KINU's Oh Kyung-seop.

The vast majority of forced laborers are sent to work in China and Russia. About 70,000-80,000 North Korean state workers are employed in China-based industries, and an estimated 30,000 work in labor-intensive industries in Russia.

Other countries where North Korean workers are deployed include Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Poland, according to Oh.

The revenue the laborers bring the regime, however, is wide-ranging in estimates.

Oh said documents submitted to the United Nations indicate the workers earn about $2.3 billion annually, but other researchers at the North Korea Strategy Center and the Korea Policy Research Institute have cited $150 million and $230 million, respectively.

North Korean workers continue to suffer serious violations of their human rights. Workers in Europe, for example, typically work 10-12 hours for six days a week, but must remit 90 percent of their earnings to the Kim regime, according to Oh.

Conflict between North Korean workers and locals may also be increasing.

According to Vladivostok-based press service DEITA, a scuffle recently broke out in a local shipyard between North Korean and Russian workers.

An argument over construction materials erupted into a fistfight that lasted for about 30 seconds, according to footage acquired by the press service.

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