Starting from February, North Korea plans to send loggers to Russia and is quietly recruiting candidates, Daily NK has learned. 

A source in Pyongyang told Daily NK on Monday that the government had ordered laborers be sent to Russia as part of efforts to earn foreign currency. 

“They plan to send loggers to Russia starting from February, after the Eighth Party Congress,” he said. “The external affairs bureau of the Pyongyang People’s Committee has been secretly recruiting people since last month.”

According to the source, North Korean authorities are quickly pressing ahead with preparations for the dispatch not only Pyongyang, but in South Pyongan Province, North Hamgyong Province, and elsewhere. The total number of workers to be sent to Russia has reportedly been set at around 10,000.

The source told Daily NK that North Korea and Russia already have an agreement regarding the dispatch of workers, and that the authorities will quietly begin sending workers from early February, after the Eighth Party Congress ends. 

The source said individuals cannot join the logging contingent just because they want to. “There are brokers operating on-the-ground, and most of them are cadres working at government agencies,” he said, adding, “Since you have to bribe them to get sent overseas, people are now sounding out whether they will really be able to go abroad.” 

A timber truck in Russia. / Image: Wikimedia Commons

According to the source, people have to provide cadres USD 600 to USD 700 in bribes to get selected to work overseas. Even those with the proper “backing” reportedly have to pay USD 500.

Some North Koreans have their suspicions about this latest push to send workers overseas. Amid the atmosphere of unpredictability created by the COVID-19 pandemic, would-be loggers wonder if they will actually be sent abroad, or whether they would just be wasting their money bribing officials only for the dispatch to fall through.

North Koreans who had previously been dispatched to Russia but sent back home due to international sanctions are hopeful about returning, but their enthusiasm is tempered by concern that they will be kicked out again. Some even say it would be “better to use the bribe money to do business here [in North Korea].”

The source said that the cadres acting as brokers sense the hesitation, and are trying to convince people by telling them that they will “return all their money if things don’t work out.”

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.
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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.