[Photos] China allows expelled North Korean workers to stay, shuffled to other jobs

Ha Yoon Ah  |  2018-04-09 15:09
Further details are emerging in regards to North Korea's practice of reshuffling its dispatched laborers in China. After being forced out of previous jobs by the Chinese government, such maneuvers are helping the regime to evade sanctions and continue earning money.

A source close to North Korean affairs in China told Daily NK on April 5 that China still appears to be complying with sanctions, at least on the outside. "Chinese government officials are going around to North Korean clothing factories warning them that the contracts for any North Korean workers must be canceled and the workers sent home," he said.

China helped pass multiple UN sanctions resolutions against the North following missile and nuclear tests the previous year, and has slowly increased its efforts to enforce measures restricting the presence of North Korean laborers in the country. 

For example, one Chinese manager of a clothing factory in Dandong (Liaoning Province) told our source that he was pressured by the Chinese government last year to cancel the contracts of 150 North Korean employees. 

"I had no choice but to comply with the order," the manager said. "But canceling the contracts early meant that I had to pay penalties to the workers. It was extremely difficult to gather enough money for the penalties for all 150 workers at once."

According to the source, Chinese managers in such cases have made deals with the North Korean managers in charge of the workers, in order to reduce the total payment for penalties.

Under the terms of these kinds of deals, the Chinese side has sought to allow laborers to continue working in China as long as their visas remain valid, and in return for guarantees over uninterrupted currency streams as the workers move to new positions, the North Korean side agrees to accept reduced penalties or to forgo them altogether. 

"For example, theres a restaurant now in Dandong that employs dozens of North Korean women as servers, although these same women were previously ousted from factory jobs," a separate source in China said, adding that there are many restaurants in the area using the same tactics. 

The source spoke with one woman working at a restaurant in Dandong who introduced herself as a native of North Pyongan Province. "I came to work here after being dismissed seven months into a job at a clothing factory. I was originally supposed to work there for two more years, but I had to use the remainder [of my allotted time] to earn money and reduce the burden of the loss," she told the source. 

North Korean women working in restaurants in China earn around 100 yuan ($15 USD) per day. However, the money is given to the North Korean managers in charge of the workers, and only part of the wage is given to the workers themselves, typically at the end of their contracts. 

Meanwhile, hundreds of North Korean female workers were seen walking through the streets of Helong near the border with North Korea on April 1 after reportedly being re-dispatched to work assignments in China. 

The move has raised concerns over China's intentions to continue complying with international sanctions restricting North Korean workers in the country, despite promising to send them home by the end of 2019 in accordance with UN Sanctions Resolution 2397.

According to documents related to the resolution released on March 16, "China must not extend work permits for any North Korean workers beyond December 22, 2019."

*Translated by Colin Zwirko

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