Confiscation of 90% of wages, forced labor and a ban on returning: the lives of North Koreans sent abroad

North Koreans who are sent by the regime to work outside the country, mainly in China and Russia, in addition to having 90% of their salary confiscated by the State, are prohibited from returning due to the strong restrictions against Covid- that persist in North Korea.

Denunciations point out that the work carried out by these North Koreans in other countries is forced and that conditions are inhumane. With no money and no permission to return, these men have no choice but to continue working away from home.

“If the situation could be filmed and shown to the world, it would be a film about rights human rights,” one of the North Korean workers abroad told Open Doors, who asked not to be identified.

He also told the story of a colleague who worked in a foreign company. While installing iron structures, the man suffered a five-meter fall. His spine was injured and he required emergency surgery. Despite the seriousness of the case, the company did not want to spend money on treatment in Russia, so it sent him back to North Korea. Some bureaucratic issues meant that he had to wait ten days to return to Pyongyang with his spine and lower limbs seriously injured.

Many similar cases of accidents at work with neglected medical care and late sending back to North Korea happen to North Koreans abroad, according to the association.

Closed borders

The situation is also tragic for those who want to leave North Korea. North Korean authorities have imposed excessive and unhelpful measures during the Covid-19 pandemic since January 2020.

Certaining that this was necessary to contain the coronavirus, the authorities built or upgraded fences, guard posts, patrol roads and other infrastructure at the border.

The increase in security has stalled almost entirely to unauthorized cross-border economic activity, which has contributed to severe shortages of food, medicine and other basic necessities, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). The measures also reinforced obstacles to any attempt by North Koreans to seek asylum abroad, violating the right to freedom of movement.

“The North Korean government used alleged measures against Covid-19 to further repress and endanger the North Korean people,” said Lina Yoon, senior North Korea researcher at HRW. “Instead, the government should redirect its efforts to improve access to food, vaccines and medicines, and respect the right to come and go, among others”, he added.

A Human Rights Watch analyzed satellite images covering more than 300 kilometers of the northern border, which stretches over 1,300 kilometers, comparing the security infrastructure before and after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. 19.

A preliminary analysis indicated that, since the beginning of 2020, the country has built new fences in several areas and modernized existing ones, established secondary fences, expanded patrol lanes, and increased the number of watchtowers and guard posts along the border.

DK Korea Norte has ratified the main international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

In 2021 , a re The report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea concluded that government authorities were responsible for crimes against humanity against North Koreans and for knowingly causing a prolonged famine.

Persecution of Christians

If the situation is deplorable for ordinary North Korean citizens, it is even worse for those who dare to study or talk about religion in the country, especially Christianity, considered a Western philosophy and therefore a betrayal of the system.

“The North Korean Christian lives his faith in secret. When discovered, he is arrested or killed. There is no Christianity in North Korea. And the deportees are arrested and killed”, revealed the general director of Portas Abertas, Marco Cruz.

No country dares to interfere in this reality. “North Korea’s arms issue and its connection with China scare the rest of the world,” explained Cruz. In addition, organizations need to act in secret, with secret aid networks and from other countries in Asia.

According to Open Doors reports, one third of prisoners in North Korea are Christians. The country’s Human Rights Committee and the International Bar Association (IBA) said in a newly published report that “there is sufficient evidence to conclude that crimes against humanity have been and continue to be committed on a large scale” in North Korean detention centers. The report described how North Korean prisons support the state in trying to eliminate any threat to the country’s leadership or ideology.

In 2022, North Korea ceased to be the number one country on the World List of Persecuted Christians, not because the situation in the country has improved, but because the pressure in Afghanistan was even greater. “Since 2021, anti-revolutionary laws have increased the number of Christians arrested and house churches closed, keeping pressure on Christians,” Cruz revealed.

“The State considers the rise of Christianity in the country a serious threat, given that Christians do not worship the authorities and also because of the work of Christian social and political organizations that do not follow the government’s ideology,” stated the United Nations report on Human Rights in North Korea on 2014.

Due to persecution, some Christians flee to China, where there is also no receptivity to religion, but there is still a less violent context than the one existing in the country commanded by Kim Jong-un.

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