N Korea sends poor abroad to work as state-owned slaves
Tens of thousands of impoverished North Koreans have been sent abroad to work as "state-sponsored slaves" whose wages are confiscated and used to buy luxury goods for the regime, human rights activists have claimed.
The practice, used since the 1980s to help fill the hermit kingdom's coffers, has reportedly accelerated under Kim Jong-un, who took power following the death of Kim Jong-il, his father, in 2011. Until 2012 there were thought to be up to 65,000 North Korean workers around the globe, often in terrible conditions. That number has since risen to around 100,000, activists told 'The New York Times'.
Ahn Myeong-chul, the head of NK Watch, a Seoul-based rights group, told the newspaper Pyongyang was "exploiting their labour and salaries to fatten the private coffers of Kim Jong-un".
"We suspect that Kim is using some of the money to buy luxury goods for his elite followers and finance the recent building boom in Pyongyang that he has launched to show off his leadership." North Korea has been sending workers overseas for decades and stepped up the practice during the 1990s as the country slipped into economic chaos and famine.
The practice now appears to be expanding once again, activists claim, partly as a result of heightened international sanctions that mean the cash-strapped regime is looking for new sources of revenue. The wages of such workers, paid in foreign currency, provide a stream of income that is seen as vital to keeping Kim Jong-un's Workers' Party in power.
Accruing foreign currency became of "paramount importance" in 2012 after Kim Jong-un took control of a country. Thousands more North Koreans are being shipped overseas where rights activists and former workers claim their experiences are often tantamount to slavery.
"There is no contract, they say they will give us health insurance and heating access but we never receive anything," one North Korean worker revealed in a new report. (© Daily Telegraph, London)