North Korean authorities plan to dispatch up to 10,000 workers to Russia starting in early March, Daily NK has learned.

A source in Pyongyang told Daily NK recently that North Korean authorities completed the selection of the workers in late January, and that the workers had been given visas to leave the country.

Daily NK was unable to uncover exactly how many people have been selected to head to Russia, but the source estimated the number is anywhere from several thousand to 10,000 people.

Most of those selected come from Pyongyang, followed by people from the Pyongan provinces and Hamgyong provinces. According to the source, North Korean authorities made the deliberate decision not to recruit people from Chagang Province, which has a lot of military-related factories.

Daily NK reported in January that right after the end of the Eighth Party Congress North Korean authorities began recruiting a large number of people to head to Russia for work.

According to the source, those dispatched to Russia will stay in the country for up to three years.

A large number of laborers are working in this building, under construction in Ussuriysk, Russia. Image = Daily NK source
A large number of laborers reportedly had worked on this building in Ussuriysk, Russia. / Image: Daily NK

The workers will engage in woodcutting, construction, or other types of work. Those who applied to go abroad were given the choice of what kind of work they could engage in.

Construction work in Russia is considered the most difficult and the most poor-paying, which meant most people did not prefer it.

“There was a lot of bribes handed out as people tried to get the types of jobs they wanted,” the source told Daily NK. “People who applied to do miscellaneous work paid bribes of up to USD 2,000, while those applying for construction jobs paid bribes of USD 1,300.”

The amount people paid in bribes differed by region. According to a source in North Pyongan Province, people in Sinuiju paid USD 3,500 to USD 4,000 for a chance to be dispatched to Russia.

Sinuiju has a lot of financially well-off people, which is why bribes in the city were twice as high as those in Pyongyang, the source said.

North Korean authorities are now coming up with plans to dispatch the workers into Russia while avoiding attention from the international community.

Under an agreement with Russia, the workers have been given “electronic passports” to help them avoid being identified by foreign governments. The fear was that their identities would be readily identifiable if they were carrying their own passports, the source said.

The workers will also be dispatched to Russia in “teams,” rather than being sent to the country all at once. These groups will be placed on different Russia-bound international trains or airlines.

“Once the conditions for the workers to depart for Russia are met, they will be dispatched immediately,” the source said. “The leadership wants to send them abroad as quickly as possible.”

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Seulkee Jang is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to