March 18, 2016 11:31
Some 50,000-60,000 North Korean workers working around the world earn US$200-300 million a year for the regime, the Unification Ministry estimates.
According to the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, an activist group, about 20,000 North Koreans work in Russia and about 19,000 in China, with the rest scattered around some 50 countries.
Most of the workers in Russia are loggers, while those in China work in factories, restaurants and on building sites. But including illegals there are probably many more North Korean workers in China who have slipped across the 1,400 km-long border to find jobs.
About 10,000 North Koreans labor on building sites in the Middle East, often as virtual prisoners in squalid conditions.
Another estimate puts the total number of North Korean workers overseas at 100,000.
"North Korean expat workers take only 20 to 30 percent of their wages home, and the rest is taken by the regime," a staffer at the Database Center said.
Most of them labor for more than 12 hours a day under constant surveillance. They are reportedly paid about US$1,000 a month in the Middle East but only $500-600 in China and Russia.
Radio Free Asia reported that the North is now sending many women to work to China, taking advantage of a loophole in recent UN Security Council sanctions that do not ban labor export.
RFA quoted a source in the Chinese border city of Dandong as saying that around 200 North Korean women were seen passing the checkpoint and boarding buses there Thursday.
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