Inside a sewing factory in Dandong City, Liaoning Province, China. Once packed with
North Korean workers, it has recently become vacant. Image: Daily NK
China’s active participation in UNSC Resolution 2371 has led to a
rejection of visa extensions for North Korean workers, forcing many to
return to North Korea, Daily NK has learned
“There used to be 300 North Korean workers here. But due to the recently adopted UNSC resolution on sanctions against the North, 170 were forced to return to the North in the middle of their contracts. The remaining 130 are also likely to be sent back soon,” a manager in charge of North Korean workers at a textile factory located in Dandong City, Liaoning Province, told Daily NK.
“Even workers who have only been working for 1 to 3 months are having to leave as their contracts are prematurely terminated. The newcomers face a more difficult situation because they have to take over the workload of those sent back to North Korea.”
When contracts between Chinese factories and North Korean workers are terminated, the associated residence visas also expire and any affected workers are forced to immediately return. Daily NK recently published a photo of 20 North Korean workers at Dandong Railway Station, waiting for a train to return to North Korea.
According to the source, there were approximately 5000 to 7000 North Korean workers at various factories involved in clothing, refrigerators, and food processing (etc.) in Dandong City alone. But the Chinese government has recently advised factory owners to terminate their contracts with North Korean workers. As a result, some Chinese factories have heeded the warning and are sending their North Korean workers back home.
The North Korean authorities now face a difficult situation with a major route of foreign currency earning in jeopardy, but they have no specific solution to the problem.
“For every 300 people working at Chinese factories, they pay an average of 45,000 RMB (about 7,800,000 KPW) per month to the Party, but now more than half of the workers have been repatriated, so the payments will be cut greatly. Even though a countermeasure is direly needed, the North Korean authorities do not seem to have any plans for now and are remaining silent,” the factory manager said.
The repatriated workers are also expected to face financial hardship because of the measure.
“A North Korean worker can earn 12,000 RMB (approximately one million KPW) per year if they work full-time at a Chinese factory, but this kind of opportunity does not exist back home. Once they are sent back, they are not allowed to be dispatched to China again, which is devastating,” a source familiar with North Korean affairs in China said.
“The dispatched workers often borrow money ranging from dozens to hundreds of dollars from donju (newly-affluent middle class citizens) or private moneylenders to bribe their way into China. So when the contract is terminated prematurely, they have to return to North Korea without enough money to repay the debt.”