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NK Refusing to Repatriate Workers` Corpses in Russia

Posted July. 14, 2009 09:13,   


North Korean workers at a construction site near Moscow Sunday grieved over a coworker’s death, with one saying “Nobody cared about his death. It was less than human.”

They said Pyongyang continues to abandon the corpses of North Korean workers who died in Russia at a temporary burial site there.

A 46-year-old North Korean defector said, “I visited the tomb of my friend, who died of pneumonia five years ago in Moscow. I found out that the size of the temporary burial site for North Korean workers has quadrupled.”

When such workers die at construction sites, Russian hospitals keep their corpses at the morgue. When Pyongyang shows no willingness to retrieve the bodies, they are buried at a temporary site near the hospital.

A Russian hospital source said, “When Pyongyang shows no intention to take the bodies back home, we dig a big hole three to four years later and bury the remains altogether.”

Another North Korean defector, 43, who has been working at an apartment construction site in Moscow for three years, said, “It has become more complicated because though Russian hospitals and the State Labor Inspector want to send the bodies back to North Korea, (Pyongyang) will not pay for the transportation cost.”

“North Korean workers in Russia are destined for burial like animals after they die, unable to return home.”

The defectors drank vodka on the eastern streets of Moscow to remember their friend the day he died. One said, “More North Koreans are dying here in Russia, reflecting the increasing number of workers sent here from Pyongyang.”

The Russian Labor and Social Development Ministry said up to 30,000 North Korean workers are in Russia.

One worker said, “Just five years ago, most of our colleagues died of chronic disease such as hepatitis and pneumonia. Now most of them die from industrial accidents, and this causes conflict between Russian and North Korean authorities over who should be responsible.”

The Russian parliament in May ratified a bilateral treaty on temporary workers with North Korea to alleviate conflict over the deaths of North Korean workers and their repatriation.

The treaty requires the entity in charge of bringing the workers to Russia, such as North Korean intelligence, to take responsibility for the transfer of dead bodies.

A North Korean worker in Moscow said, however, “Even after the enactment of the treaty, the dead bodies are still not returned home because the (North’s) government does not pay for the transportation cost.”