Regime resorts to child labor in jewel factory scheme

Choi Song Min  |  2017-02-10 05:14
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Trading companies affiliated with the Daesung General Bureau are reportedly seeking teenage girls with soft hands for employment as manual polishers at gemstone-processing plants. The report is one of the more unusual examples of the North Korean regimes desperate bid to earn foreign currency. 

Young female students with smooth palms are being selected to work in gemstone-processing factories in cities across South Pyongan Province, South Hamgyong Province, and North Pyongan Province. These kids are being selected because it is believed that the best polish can be achieved by rubbing the jewels in the palms of their hands," a source from South Pyongan Province told Daily NK on February 3.

For this reason, teenage girls can be seen sitting in groups at the gemstone factories, diligently rubbing the jewels. The tiny jewels are so small that they are hard to pick up. The students sometimes grimace as they place the jewels between their two palms and rub away."

The regime is responding to sanctions implemented by the international community by diversifying the types of goods it exports to earn foreign currency. In expanding the potential sources of revenue for the regime, the authorities have shown a uniform disregard for the basic rights of its workers. 

For its part, the regime has firmly denied allegations of human rights violations, stating, The republic [North Korea] has no human rights issues."

After rubbing the gemstones with their hands all day, the young workers develop blisters and their skin begins to peel off. They are forbidden from complaining about the pain. Instead, they keep their heads down and work hard for eight hours every day," the source said.

He added, Those who complain about blisters receive no sympathy. They get kicked out of the factory and lose their jobs. So they have no choice but to endure. Instead of caring for the workers, the cadres at the helm of the operations are completely focused on fulfilling the quotas set by the Ministry of Foreign Trade.    

Most of the laborers work so hard that they get calluses. When this becomes an issue, theyre told to leave the factory, he said.

The meager wages earned by the workers reportedly amounts to 5,000 KPW per month, an amount that is insufficient to purchase a kilogram of rice. 

Most of the workers are lured into the factories by the prospect of receiving food rations, not for the wages. Thats why they bite the bullet and sign up. The cadres put pressure on the kids by saying, There are plenty of people around who could do this! Theyre constantly pushing the workers to increase their output, a source in South Hamgyong Province added.

*Edited by Lee Farrand

 
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2017.09.27
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