November 23, 2020 12:41
South Korea, the U.K. and the U.S. imported personal protective equipment from Chinese manufacturers who secretly used North Korean slave labor, the Guardian reported on Nov. 20.
The daily said the North Korean laborers, who should all have been sent home at the end of last year under UN sanctions, worked for 18 hours a day in squalid conditions resembling modern slavery.
It said "hundreds of thousands of protective coveralls ordered for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) have come from factories using North Korean labor" in the Chinese border city of Dandong. Italy, Japan, Myanmar, South Africa, and the Philippines also purchased the PPE.
The Guardian uncovered evidence that the North Koreans, mostly women, labored for 18 hours with almost no rest. They workers were constantly monitored and could not leave the factories freely. "Sources indicate that the North Korean workers in PPE factories in Dandong have about 70 percent of their wages seized by the North Korean state," it added.
One source at a factory in Dandong said, "The workers have no days off. They are not allowed to go out. The North Korean [state] controls them. They make money for the country."
Many textile factories along the Yalu or Apnok River still employ North Korean workers, though under UN Security Council resolutions they should all have been sent home by the end of 2019.
According to Dandong government statistics, 21 million protective coveralls were manufactured in the region in the first six months of this year. On paper, a North Korean laborer earns between 2,200 and 2,800 yuan a month (W374,000 to W476,000, US$1=W1,117). But the North Korean regime steals most of the money.
The UN believes the North Korean regime is forcing people to labor abroad under appalling conditions and the International Labor Union also accuses the impoverished state of modern slavery.
"The findings suggest that the U.K. government may have indirectly funneled taxpayers' money into the pockets of [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-un and his brutal regime, which the UN has said is guilty of 'widespread and gross human rights violations' amounting to crimes against humanity," the paper said.
It added that countries that import such products may also be violating UN sanctions.
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