Many N. Koreans working in China are still in limbo

North Korean workers in the country are still forced to pay up to half of their wages to the regime's "loyalty fund"

North Koreans working at restaurants and factories in China are worried about getting paid, despite the fact that many food joints and manufacturers are restarting operations, Daily NK has learned.

Daily NK sources confirmed on Apr. 1 that Chinese factories in Liaoning and Jilin provinces that employ North Korean workers have reopened. The factories, however, are suffering from financial difficulties because they are unable to sell their goods or obtain raw materials for production. 

WAGE WORRIES

Most of these factories produce clothes or seafood products and predominantly employ North Koreans. Clothing factories in Dandong that employ North Korean workers, for example, reportedly sell most of their products overseas to places like South Korea, Japan, the US and Europe, rather than the Chinese market. The COVID-19 situation has left many of the factories unable to either produce or export their goods normally. 

“North Korean workers in these factories recently began to work again after a hiatus of one to two months, during which they were not paid any wages. But the factory profits have gone down so much that it’s likely that they might not get properly paid even though they’re working,” one source told Daily NK. 

Factories with North Korean workers as well as North Korean restaurants in Tumen, Hunchun and Kaishantunzhen in the Yanbian region of China have also reopened but are reportedly facing similar financial difficulties. Once again the concern is that the North Koreans working in these factories and restaurants may not be properly compensated.

Daily NK reported last week that seafood processing factories in Hunchun have been unable to acquire raw materials to produce their goods. Workers at the factories are reportedly still out of work. 

North Korean workers at Chinese factories reportedly earn a monthly wage that ranges from RMB 2,000–2,500 (approximately USD 282 – USD 352) on the low end to RMB 3,000 (around USD 422) on the high end. 

A North Korean restaurant worker in Liaoning Province told Daily NK that there are not as many Chinese heading out to eat anymore and that this has caused a “significant” fall in profits. 

“Officials are sending workers to restaurants that need helping hands and provide compensation,” she said, adding, “Some restaurants give out tasks to workers that they can do at home at night.”

PAYMENTS INTO LOYALTY FUND CONTINUE

The workers are required to pay about half of their earnings to the North Korean government’s “loyalty fund.” Ultimately, if workers fail to receive their wages, the North Korean government has trouble collecting money for the fund. 

“Workers at factories and restaurants in China thought they could start earning money again now that the coronavirus outbreak seems to be calming down,” a North Korean trader told Daily NK.

“They’re finding it’s harder to earn money than before. They still have to pay the same amount into the loyalty fund,” he said, adding, “Officials responsible for collecting and sending these payments back to the regime are in a panic. Some workers are finding night-time work to do so they can make ends meet.” 

*Translated by Violet Kim

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Ha Yoon Ah is Daily NK's editor-in-chief. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.