Jul 07, 2016

    N. Korea banks on 'state-sponsored slaves' for cash


    NORTH Korea has sent hundreds of workers to labour as "state-sponsored slaves" in EU nations as Pyongyang seeks to circumvent international sanctions aimed at starving it of money over its nuclear weapons programme, rights campaigners said yesterday.

    North Korean labourers commonly work 10- to 12-hour shifts, six days a week, but up to 90 per cent of their pay is sent back to the hermit state, according to the European Alliance For Human Rights In North Korea.

    Most are working in Polish shipyards, construction sites and farms.

    The North Korean embassy in Warsaw denied that workers were deprived of pay.

    But campaigners say North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's regime is using overseas labour to earn much needed foreign currency to offset the impact of UN sanctions.

    A UN report last year estimated there were over 50,000 North Koreans working abroad, earning the state US$1.2 billion (S$1.6 billion) to US$2.3 billion annually.

    Campaigners say North Koreans are vetted closely before they are sent overseas.

    "They select only workers who are married and have children - hostage-taking essentially," European Alliance director Michael Glendinning said.

    "If they were to defect, the family would likely face some kind of punishment in a political prison camp, a re-education camp or - in extreme cases - execution."