DPRK workers treated like slaves, report says

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DPRK workers treated like slaves, report says

According to a report by the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK), the life of a North Korean worker overseas is comparable to that of a slave. According to the testimonies of North Korean defectors, given in the report, North Korean workers dispatched to construction sites in the Middle East said that they had no freedom to rest or even to be ill.

One construction worker, surnamed Kim, said that while stationed in Kuwait, he earned $90 per month, and yet on one occasion he had to pay a $10 fine after fainting as result of heatstroke.

“I had to wake up between four and five in the morning and work until 10 at night,” Kim said. “During this time, more than seven of us lived together in a 10-by-10-meter (33-by33 feet) room, suffering from bedbugs and rat infestations.” He added that he had to keep a handful of salt in his pocket during work, in order to maintain his sodium levels after sweating all day the blazing heat.

Also in the report, which the ICNK disclosed Monday, it is noted that workers received only one holiday, known as “Culture Day,” which was the only day during which they were permitted to bathe and do laundry. North Korean workers were even encouraged by North Korean companies to steal construction materials or liquor in order to earn more cash. However, in the event that North Korean workers are caught by local police, these companies deny any involvement, according to Kim.

Sources familiar with North Korea claim that it raises at least $250 million annually from overseas workers. After the UN Security Council imposed harsh sanctions against North Korea, and several countries announced unilateral sanctions, there developed growing concern that North Korea will push to send more workers to other countries. At the Human Rights Council in Geneva, held on Monday, North Korean diplomats were not in attendance, and a United Nations expert on human rights in North Korea said that North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, as well as other top officials, should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity. The expert asked a key rights body to authorize three experts to look into the legal aspects of criminal accountability.

Marizuki Darusman said that international criminal law holds military and civilian leaders responsible for failing to prevent or repress crimes against humanity by those under their authority. He said that this offers a “plausible theory” to hold Kim and other leaders “individually culpable.”

“It is now time for the international community to move on with the logical next step - which is pursuing the accountability of the regime and those most responsible for violations of human rights in the country,” Darusman told reporters afterward, adding, “nothing happens anywhere in that country without the say so of the highest supreme leader … Mr. Kim Jong Un.”

BY CHUN SU-JIN, AP [kim.sohee0905@joongang.co.kr]

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