N.Korean Workers Go AWOL in China

Several North Korean workers who were sent to China earlier this year have disappeared. The workers were sent to China as part of efforts to step up economic cooperation between the two countries.

An informed source in China said "five or six" North Koreans who were working in factories and restaurants in Jilin, Tumen and Hunchun along the border with North Korea have disappeared. Chinese security forces are believed to be looking for them.

Meanwhile, two or three North Korean students who were studying in Eastern Europe recently defected to South Korea. "The number of North Korean defectors has almost halved due to crackdowns by Chinese authorities," a government source here said. "But it looks like there are many defections among North Koreans either working or studying abroad.”

China's Jilin Province signed an agreement with North Korea in January of this year allowing 20,000 North Koreans to work in Tumen and Hunchun. Some 200 North Korean women were granted work visas in May as industrial trainees in Tumen. Since then, more North Koreans have been allowed to work in Jilin, Liaoning and Dandong along the border between the two countries.

But North Korea and China are apparently having a tough time managing the workers. A source said North Korea insists on state-run supervision similar to the joint-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex to prevent the workers from escaping, but China wants to let companies manage and control workers based on global standards.

North Korean personnel manage the 50,000 workers employed by South Korean companies at Kaesong, giving them regular ideological training sessions and controlling their movements. "The problem of defections will grow worse if the work programs are expanded," the source said.

Some 40,000 North Koreans are believed to be working in China. The North has sent another 30,000 people to 40 different countries to earn foreign currency. They apparently send back around US$100 million per year.

englishnews@chosun.com / Aug. 20, 2012 11:57 KST