October 12, 2016 13:00
An increasing number of North Koreans are defecting from Russia where some 20,000 of them labor in often inhuman conditions, a source said Tuesday.
The source said about a dozen North Korean workers at a single construction site in Russia have recently told South Korean authorities that they want to defect. Altogether some 40 North Koreans including loggers in Siberia have defected and are staying in a shelter in Russia.
Workers typically escape in groups of three or four. They are reportedly motivated by appalling working conditions and relentless pressure from the North Korean regime to cough up more hard currency.
Another source in China said since the severe flooding of the Duman River last month, the regime has been forcing workers overseas to donate US$100 to 150 each to a flood relief fund. "This kind of extortion is causing more North Korean workers overseas to defect," the source added.
Most of the North Koreans in China and Russia know about the recent defection of senior officials overseas.
"The North is sending more officials to China and Russia to keep watch on workers there, but it seems difficult for the regime to prevent expat workers from defecting," a government official here said.
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