A Chinese fish processing factory previously hired 200 female workers from
North Korea to package products for export to Japan and other countries.
(Image unrelated to this article.) Image: Daily NK
Reports are emerging that factories in Dandong (Liaoning Province), China, have begun hiring domestic workers from Shandong Province to replace North Korean workers who are being expelled due to China’s recent implementation of international sanctions.
A source in China informed Daily NK on November 9 that “fish processing plants in the Tonggang area of Dandong are hiring workers from Shandong to fill the vacancies left behind by the North Koreans. Farmers in Shandong are apparently reacting positively to the news of more job openings in the area.”
“A small beer company on the outskirts of Dandong that mostly hired North Korean workers in the past also plans to recruit new employees from Shandong, after all of its workers were recently sent home,” a separate source in China with knowledge of the situation added.
Both sources reported that there is a general sense in the region that with China’s cooperation in enforcing strengthened international sanctions, companies cannot employ North Korean workers for the time being. Companies must also adhere to rules regarding termination dates for existing contracts with such workers. As a result, the majority appear to be taking a more long-term approach and are hiring workers from elsewhere instead of hoping for a change in the government’s policy.
The reason for targeting workers in Shandong is likely due to their reputation as “cheap labor.” “Companies in Dandong pay Shandong workers 2500-3000 yuan per month ($375-450 USD), which is actually quite similar to what they offer North Korean workers,” the first source noted.
While many companies have accepted the new reality and are implementing new hiring strategies, they are expressing regret at the loss of their North Korean workers.
According to the additional source, one owner of a fish processing factory said, “Without saying a word, North Koreans are all great workers and are extremely fast. But I felt sorry for them when I saw them working extra hard, only for their North Korean managers to line their own pockets. They weren’t even fed properly.”
The beer company owner also added, “I feel sorry for the workers who are now being sent home, especially when thinking back to the times when I saw female employees working so hard. And they never received a full paycheck.”
While pay varies according to position and hours, a typical salary for a North Korean worker in China is around 2000-3000 yuan ($300-$450 USD). However, Chinese companies are not permitted to directly pay the North Korean workers themselves. Instead, living expenses and salaries are all paid to North Korean government officials, who later distribute smaller amounts to the workers.
Approximately 50% of a worker’s salary is taken out and given to the party as a sort of bribe to the government for allowing them to work abroad in the first place. Workers typically receive around 1000 yuan ($150 USD) in the end.
The North Korean government also takes 100% of all holiday and overtime pay owed to the workers.