More N. Korean workers fleeing posts in Russia

More North Korean workers dispatched to
Russia are abandoning their posts due to harsh working conditions and wage
exploitation. This also comes as Russian authorities are increasingly turning
away from apprehending and repatriating them following UN Secretary-General
Ban Ki Moon’s visit to the country in May, Daily NK has learned. 

“North Korean workers dispatched to Russia
earn roughly 800 to 1,000 USD a month, but most of those wages are expropriated
as ‘loyalty fees’ to the North’s foreign currency earning companies,” a source
in Russia close to matter told Daily NK on Wednesday. “More workers from the
North are abandoning their jobs because they receive so little in comparison to
Russian laborers even though they work on similar levels, so complaints have
been mounting.”
 

This news was confirmed by an additional
source in Russia.
 

In the city of Chita, roughly 300 North
Koreans from Cholsan and Nakwon enterprises have been dispatched, and of those
a growing number have been deserting their posts. 
“Even in May, a few North Korean workers
dispatched to construction sites deserted their posts and were apprehended by
Russian police after they were found working at a different company nearby the
city of Chita. But they’re safe and well,” she explained, noting that under Kim
Jong Il’s rule, most overseas workers were dispatched for logging, but now an
increasing number of people are being sent to construction sites instead.
 

However, one of the conditions discouraging
workers from acting on their inner yearning is the fact that many of them
are dispatched alone with family members left back in the North. They fear
“something bad will happen to them,” the source asserted, adding that workers
moonlighting for extra cash often say “they would run away on the spot if it
weren’t for their families.”
 

For those who do escape, UN chief Ban Ki
Moon’s visit is thought to have played a significant role in the relaxed
regulations bolstering their chances to avoid repercussions. In many cases,
according to both sources, the Russian authorities have been turning a blind
eye to North Korean laborers escaping their posts and, in some cases, even
extending a helping hand. 

Needless to say, this is in stark contrast to the
past when law enforcement officials actively cooperated with the North Korean
mission to capture workers who have escaped.
 

“In the past, North Korean authorities
would ask Russian authorities to arrest workers who have escaped and the police
would do so. This is why most deserters would flee to areas far away or hide in
the mountains,” the source explained. “But now, even if they’re caught by the
police, they are not handed over to North Koreans officials.”
 

In light of these escapes, North Korean
enterprises are stepping up monitoring from security officials and boosting
efforts in self-criticism sessions that are carried out during the week, she
concluded.

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Kang Mi Jin
Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.