[BBC] North Koreans working in China ‘exploited like slaves’

27 Mar 2024

On February 8, 2024, BBC News covered the situation of North Korean overseas workers in China. Last month, around 2,500 North Koreans, who have been sent by the North Korean government to work in China, reportedly have rioted after finding out they would not be paid. Their wages are reportedly being used to fund Pyongyang’s development of weapons. The Database Center for North Korean Human Rights (NKDB) speculates that, given the reports are credible, the protest would have occurred spontaneously rather than planned. 

(NKDB Hanna Song) “Typically overseas workers have put up with harsh conditions and strict surveillance because they can return home with a small amount of cash. Many of them felt abandoned when the government closed the borders during COVID.”

Discontent among North Korean workers heightened when they were unable to enter North Korea upon the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, many had to live under harsh conditions and enjoyed little freedom under a high level of control. When North Korea reopened its border afterwards, North Korean workers intended to return home and recoup their money, which had been withheld. Following protests, North Korean officials were dispatched to pay the workers wages, but several millions of dollars worth of wages still remain withheld. North Korea needs to address this issue to avoid political tension with China.

(NKDB Hanna Song) “It was difficult to imagine a large-scale protest could suddenly erupt. "If there had even been a whiff of planning, it would likely have been discovered beforehand by the state security officials and shut down."

You can read the full article on the BBC website by clicking HERE.