Former Kaesong Industrial Complex workers dispatched overseas

Choi Song Min  |  2016-08-31 13:50
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Despite a string of high-profile defections by North Koreans dispatched abroad, Pyongyang is looking to bolster its overseas workforce in an effort to replenish its foreign currency reserves for the regime, Daily NK has learned. 

Recruitment drives have been taking place in Pyongyang and across the country in order to dispatch a large number of workers overseas, a source from South Pyongan Province told Daily NK. Central agencies in the capital and trade companies are proceeding with verification procedures for new hires according to official selection procedures.

Additional sources in Pyongyang corroborated this news.

Of the 50,000 North Korean workers who were previously employed at the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex (which ground to a halt in February), approximately 80 percent are being dispatched overseas. The vast majority of female workers who held positions as fabric cutters and seamstresses at clothing companies in the complex have been dispatched to China and Russia, while male workers who specialized in machine production and as assembly technicians are heading to Southeast Asia and Arab nations, reported the source.

The sheer number of those recruited from the Kaesong complex suggest the industrial parks development office has been heavily involved in the hiring process of overseas workers. After struggling to figure out what to do with the tens of thousands of workers left unemployed from the shuttered complex, the office is thought to have aggressively pushed for former Kaesong employees to be selected first in the states drive to send more workers overseas.

Workers for dispatch normally require documents outlining their family relationships as well as a recommendation letter, a performance evaluation from a government department, and a medical certificate - all of which must be in accordance with recruitment principles, the source said. It normally takes at least a month to pass the background check, but Kaesong workers are being approved rapidly without the hassle. 

Additionally, while most overseas workers require an ideology certification from the political authorities and local security agencies, this does not apply to former Kaesong workers so long as they have evidence that they worked there. 

The process is being accelerated ostensibly because Kaesong employees have previously passed through ideological screening, but it shows the pressing need to bring in foreign currency, the source noted. It also appears they believe the Kaesong workers will not be that impressed if theyre exposed to life overseas because theyve already experienced elements of capitalism while working at the park.

With a greater outflow of workers, North Koreas trade companies and government departments with existing operations abroad are facing stronger competition among themselves to earn foreign currency, which may lead to further exploitation of their overseas workers.

Pyongyang has sent its workers to China, Russia, Mongolia and a number of Southeast Asian countries to work in fields ranging from logging, farming, construction, and the hospitality sector. An additional source in South Pyongan Province reports that common estimates for the number reaches over 200,000. 

North Korean workers can be found in construction sites in Chinas largest cities such as Beijing and Shenyang, as well as in border towns like Yanji, Dandong, and Hunchun. Even in the small countryside city of Helong across the border from Musan County, roughly 1,000 workers are doing construction work, the source noted.

*Translated by Jiyeon Lee
*Edited by Lee Farrand

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