Russia Expels North Korean 'Slave' Workers To Stop Kim Jong Un

Alongside China, Russia is the world's biggest user of - mostly forced - labor from North Korea.

In an attempt to stop Kim Jong Un’s regime from the development of its nuclear programs, Russia is sending back North Korean workers back home.

Russia has reportedly started the process of expelling these migrant workers in compliance with a United Nations Security Council resolution passed in December.

The resolution stated all countries must send North Korean workers back home within 24 months, with the aim of cutting funds to Pyongyang attempting to stop the regime from the development of its nuclear weapons program. It was passed as a response to the rogue nation’s ballistic missile testing in November.

It is a well-documented fact that thousands of North Korean laborers in Russia work like "slaves" and almost all their wages forcibly go to fund Kim Jong Un’s regime. According to a U.N. special source, Pyongyang earns about a half billion dollars every year from 100,000 North Korean laborers abroad, who often work in “slave-like conditions.”

North Korea denies these reports.

It is important to note if Russia actually deports all the laborers from the reclusive state, it could have a negative impact on the former's economy. These workers fill in for highly dangerous yet extremely low-paid construction jobs. Last year, a worker who was helping to build the 2018 World Cup stadium in St Petersburg died on site.

Russia is one of the world’s leading employers of North Korean laborers, alongside China. The migrants’ role in the construction industry in Russia’s Far East is crucial.

According to the country’s Interior Ministry, Moscow gave work visas to at least 24,000 North Koreans in 2017.

Approximately 12,000 North Korean migrants work in the country’s eastern Primorsky Krai region, said Alexander Matsegora, Russia’s ambassador to North Korea.

State Department report from 2017 said some of these workers are even subjected to forced labor.

Matsegora denies the allegations as “complete nonsense,” but he accepted that Chinese laborers would generally not be willing to take on the construction jobs because of the low pay factor.

Nevertheless, the Russian ambassador stressed all North Korean workers will be expelled in compliance with the Security Council resolution, regardless of the “blow” to the Russian economy.

“If Russia is truly enforcing U.N. Security Council resolutions and expelling North Korean workers I think that would initially be a positive sign,” said Lisa Collins, a Korea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “If other countries also follow suit and expel North Korean workers this could cumulatively have a large effect on the total amount of money that the North Korean regime earns abroad.”

North Korea earns between $200 million and $500 million dollars a year from overseas laborers, she explained.

Some people are still unconvinced about Russia keeping true to its commitment.

“North Korea has sent laborers to work in logging camps in Siberia and the Russian Far East for decades, and in more recent years has also sent a growing number of laborers to work in sectors such as construction,” said Daniel Wertz, a representative of the National Committee of North Korea.

“There is reason to be skeptical about the depth of Russia’s commitment to enforcing these sanctions,” he added. “Even if Moscow formally prohibits the employment of North Korean laborers, Russian authorities might ultimately turn a blind eye to the practice.”

Despite the sanctions, last month, the head of Russia’s Far East region called on Moscow to allow around 10,000 North Koreans to stay in Russia.

Thumbnail/Banner Image: Reuters

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