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Did North Run Labor Racket in Europe?

Posted December. 04, 2006 06:44,   


The European Parliament has begun an investigation in response to allegations that the North Korean government dispatched hundreds of workers to European countries and forced them to send their wages home.

Last Saturday, the Mainichi Daily of Japan reported that the European Parliament planned to finish its investigation by next spring and issue a report thereafter. For the investigation, the parliament is also considering questioning people in countries where North Korean workers stay.

It is estimated that the number of workers that the North Korean government sent to overseas countries such as the Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, the Middle East, and Africa is anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000. Currently, 400 North Korean workers, mostly women, are staying in the Czech Republic and working in sewing factories in the suburbs of Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic.

Their monthly salaries are well above the country’s minimum wage of about 285,000 won. However, the European Parliament estimated that a large part of their salaries is deposited into a collective bank account controlled by the North Korean government. In addition to this, the North Korean government takes away more of workers’ salaries by forcing them to buy propaganda videos produced by the government.

The Mainichi Daily also covered the case of one North Korean man who is working for a shipbuilding company located in Gdansk in the northern part of Poland. The story reported that North Korean workers’ salaries goes to the bank account of a North Korea’s state enterprise first, and in the end only 30 or 40 percent of it is left in the hands of workers.

A source from a company that arranges North Korean workers to go to factories in Poland said, “They get paid 4,000 Zloty, or about 1.3 million won, a month, which is sent to the bank account in Poland of a North Korea state enterprise, and workers are only receiving 400,000 or 500,000 won a month.”

István Szent-Iványi, vice-chairman of the delegation for relations with the Korean Peninsula in the European Parliament, said, “North Korean workers are treated like slaves now because they are working under inhuman conditions and thoroughly monitored by their government.”

However, one senior North Korean worker (aged 45) at a shipbuilding company in Gdansk said, “We are well fed now and enjoy a glass of beer every day. Every day seems to me like my birthday and the North Korean Embassy in Warsaw even delivers kimchi to us.”

The Mainichi Daily hypothesizes that North Korea may be sending workers oversea as a way of overcoming financial crisis.