North Korean workers at Dandong railway station, Liaoning Province, on the morning of
September 4. Many have been forced to return home after factories in China declined to extend
their contracts. Image: Daily NK
Daily NK has received photos of North Korean workers waiting to board trains home at Dandong’s railway station (Liaoning Province) on the morning of September 4. They were reportedly working at a cold storage facility in China but having failed to have their contracts extended, have had no choice but to return home.
“Every day, groups of North Korean workers are returning to their country via Dandong railway station due to the sanctions. The Chinese factory owners used to prefer North Korean workers because of the cheaper wages, but now they are employing Chinese workers even though their wages are higher,” a source familiar with North Korean affairs in China told Daily NK.
North Korean trading companies were previously using a system to dispatch workers to overseas factories for three to five year intervals, with an extension of the contracts or the signing of new ones upon expiration of the original contract. Officially, the companies are required to recall workers whose contracts have ended and dispatch new workers, but many workers have been extending their stays in exchange for bribes given to the company managers.
The Chinese factories benefit from a cheap labor force, so the extensions were easily accepted in the past.
However, these factories have recently ceased extending labor contracts and issuing new ones with North Korean trading companies following the adoption of new UNSC sanctions.
Daily NK previously reported that a large number of Chinese factories announced that they will no longer extend labor contracts for North Korean workers due to the sanctions.
As a result, the North Korean authorities are keen to find alternative routes to earn foreign currency and have instructed some workers to look for other ways to earn foreign currency rather than return home after their period of dispatch.
Daily NK also reported that at least some North Korean workers in Dandong (Liaoning Province) have managed to find work at nearby restaurants and hotels.
North Korean workers are often repatriated after an extended period of overseas dispatch, as the regime considers them more likely to learn about the external world and attempt defection. But as the regime has become desperate in its attempts to earn foreign currency, it has started encouraging these workers to extend their stays.
As tension in border regions between China and North Korea rise following the latter’s sixth nuclear test on September 3, North Korean workers in China are finding it increasingly difficult to find work.
“The Chinese factory owners were already apprehensive in regards to employing North Korean workers under the continuing sanctions,” a separate source in China with knowledge of the issue said. “Now following the sixth nuclear test, most believe that it is practically impossible to hire North Koreans.”