Mass defection of N Korean workers embarrassment to regimeThirteen North Koreans working in a restaurant outside of that country have arrived in S. Korea to claim asylum. It has been reported that one man and 12 women were in the group of defectors. The S. Korean Unification Ministry declined to specify from which country the refugees came.
One of the defectors is purported to have volunteered that their assigned restaurant was having difficulty keeping up with the demands of the home government for increased money sent home. S. Korea has urged its citizens who travel abroad to boycott any N. Korean restaurants as the money earned there is helping support the N. Korean nuclear weapons programme.
There are about 130 restaurants in China, South Asia and Russia that are run by N. Korea. The majority are in the PRC. The revenue from the eateries is considerable, estimated at around USD $10 million each year.
Another source of foreign income for the reclusive nation, especially as sanctions tighten to force Pyongyang to stop its nuclear weapons development, is the deployment of thousands of workers overseas. According to a UN report released last October an estimated 50 000 workers are placed by their government in jobs that range from the restaurant workers to extremely hazardous situations. The workers are placed depending on where they fit into the hierarchy of loyalty to the “supreme leader” with those deemed less loyal getting the worst jobs. The majority of workers are sent to the PRC.
As might be expected these forced labourers are paid little, work hard and have most of the money earned by them sent to the N. Korean government. The UN official presenting the report put a USD$2.3 billion sum on what N. Korea was receiving per year for the sweated labour.
Ministry of Unification(Korea)
Channel News Asia
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