Aug. 13 (UPI) -- North Korea's state-sanctioned guest workers continue to be deployed to overseas sites in violation of international sanctions, according to a Japanese press report.
Workers remain in countries like China, Syria, Vietnam and Russia, partly due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the Sankei Shimbun reported Thursday. North Korea closed its borders in late January. Other countries have restricted movement across borders.
The report of violations were mentioned in an interim report by an independent panel of experts monitoring U.N. sanctions on Monday, according to the Sankei.
North Korean guest workers hold various occupations, including in food services, medicine, and construction.
U.N. member states like Russia may be retaining the services of North Korean laborers for reasons other than COVID-19. They represent a cheap and efficient workforce, experts tell the Sankei.
All U.N. member states were required to repatriate North Korean workers at the end of 2019. They were also required to submit a status report at the end of March, but less than 20% of member states, 40 countries in total, have submitted reports.
In countries like China and Syria, some workforce contracts have been renewed. A firm in Syria reportedly requested the dispatch of at least 800 North Korean workers to construction sites in October 2019, according to the Sankei.
North Korean workers, a critical source of foreign currency, were estimated to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars for the Kim Jong Un regime in 2015 before sanctions.
North Korea's economy has been severely impacted by COVID-19, according to new research from Seoul's Korea Institute for National Unification, Yonhap reported Thursday.
The report estimates North Korea exported only $27 million of goods to China, its principal trading partner, in the first half of the year, while importing $383 million of goods, in the first half of 2020.