International community turns attention towards NK overseas workers

first_img Ordinary Pyongyang residents have not received government rations since mid-April Facebook Twitter News News RELATED ARTICLESMORE FROM AUTHOR North Korean workers in transit at Russia’s Vladivostok airport. Image: Daily NK -We’ve heard that dispatched workers have better access to foreign media than people in North Korea. As a result, do you think more foreign workers will try to defect? As long as Kim Jong Un continues to use the politics of fear and overseas workers continue to be exploited, I think that those workers who can access foreign information will continue to make defection attempts. Most of the foreign workers have lived through North Korea’s famine period (in the mid 1990s), so they have more interest in self preservation than they have loyalty towards the regime. The collectivist ethos and patriotism are fading in North Korea. If suppression and exploitation continue, the likelihood of defections will rise. -When overseas workers defect, they often maintain relations with friends and relatives still in North Korea. What kind of influence do they have on North Korean society?  The North Korean authorities will not inform the public that overseas workers are defecting, but the workers themselves will use secret forms of communication to let people know. As rumors spread inside the country about the growing number of defecting workers, public opinion will change. There is also the chance that North Korea will tighten its grip on these workers. That means the screening process will become incredibly strict, ensuring only loyal residents have the chance to work abroad. If that happens, the overall number of workers will likely drop. That means that the number of defectors will also drop. -What role can South Korea and the international community play in terms of influencing these overseas workers? Do you think it is important to conduct more outreach? If more North Korean workers are dispatched abroad, more will defect. Also, the more foreign information and culture that they come into contact with, the greater the effect it will have on them. The consumption of foreign ideas and information helps them to put their own experience in context, and reveals that conditions are better in other countries. This will stir the pot, leading to further disillusionment and defections. That is why I believe it is not the best course of action to dramatically reduce the number of overseas workers. Instead, I think that the experience that these laborers get while abroad is extremely important in terms of producing positive change within North Korean society. So I think we need to work with the ILO and host countries to ensure that the working conditions are brought up to international standards. The international community has developed considerable interest in North Korea’s overseas workers, but this is still a priority for South Korea as well. We need to show interest in improving human rights for North Korea’s workers in order to lay the groundwork for reunification. It seems as if there are some responses inside North Korea to this constant stream of pressure and criticism from the international community. For instance, there have been some slight formal changes to the North Korean constitution and criminal law codes. I think it is South Korea’s duty to lead the charge when it comes to North Korean human rights and the overseas labor problem.  By Daily NK – 2016.11.07 5:49pm SHARE AvatarDaily NKQuestions or comments about this article? Contact us at [email protected] International community turns attention towards NK overseas workers -The lengths that North Korean overseas laborers go to in order to escape is testament to the horrendous treatment they receive at the hands of the North Korean authorities. The miserable conditions that North Korean workers are subject to abroad have been well documented, and they are frequently subject to human rights violations. In recent months, the international community has been renewing its efforts to bring this issue to the fore.    A special investigation by the South Korean government [under the auspice of the recently-passed North Korean Human Rights Act] will be held on November 17 and is tasked with investigating the scale of the problem, the conditions under which the workers live, and the manner in which the North Korean regime controls its workers. To learn more about the issue, we sat down with Jeon Hyeon Jun, Director of the Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Institute.The severe human rights abuses that North Korean overseas laborers are subjected to is getting more attention from the international community. In late August this year, a group said to consist of more than ten North Korean workers in Russia succeeded in a group defection by heading to the South Korean consulate general and seeking asylum. We have heard that the escapees are currently on their way to South Korea. Can you tell us a little more about this? That is correct. We have been informed that over ten North Korean laborers fled from Saint Petersburg, Russia, this August. We heard that the team manager led the defection, and that the escapees received assistance from an international human rights organization which facilitated their evacuation to a local safe zone. They are expected to land in South Korea soon. The South Korean government has been involved in facilitating their transport as well. We believe that the workers were assigned to a construction site under the auspices of the “Mokran” North Korean construction company, which employs approximately 150 workers in the region. -How many overseas North Korean laborers are there? We don’t have precise figures. We believe anywhere from 60,000 to 120,000. It is possible that as many as 200,000 are dispatched abroad. -What function do these workers serve for the regime? The North Korean regime needs foreign currency. They have previously engaged in munitions sales, sales of illicit drugs, and counterfeiting to earn cash, but these enterprises are not as successful these days. So the regime has turned to exporting its people to earn cash. It is assumed that the regime accepts the fact that a minority of the workers will defect, and has deemed this an acceptable risk. -We’ve heard that North Korean overseas workers live in terrible conditions. Can you elaborate on this? They reportedly work for approximately 12 to 16 hours per day. The fixed work shift is 8 hours, but this is extended to increase revenue for the regime. They are also forced to work on weekends, and the abysmal conditions really are a form of slave labor. They are paid $1,000 a month in some instances, but 90% of that is confiscated by the state in the form of forced bribes and so-called “loyalty funds.” The remaining sum is often sent home to the family, so the workers have a very difficult time making ends meet. They have very little freedom to move about, and if they do go out, they must go in pairs and are held responsible for their partner. -Such harsh conditions no doubt contribute to many of the workers contemplating defection. Can you tell us a bit more about the recent Russian group defection? That is absolutely correct. The reasons that they defect include lack of freedom, the difficulty of the work, health problems, and the terrible working conditions. The fact that such a large proportion of their paycheck goes to the regime is another major source of frustration. The workers are also forced to contribute to various other causes. For example, they were subject to a compulsory donation of $100-150 for the Tumen flood relief effort. These kinds of practices cause a lot of grief among the workers. Furthermore, once the workers are abroad, they have more access to information than they have ever had. In particular, each team leader has a cellphone, making it quite easy for them to access foreign media. We’ve learned that Russian police are not very keen on apprehending North Koreans. The recent defection from Russia involved a team of workers, and it’s likely that the team leader decided to defect because he was worried that he would be blamed for something. Since 2012, it appears that the regime has not done a very good job of vetting candidates for foreign work. Normally, those sent abroad are supposed to be ideologically pure, but it appears that people are now able to bribe their way into these overseas labor programs. -The fact that ten workers defected as a group is pretty remarkable. Logistically, it must have been quite difficult for them to organize and communicate. How do you think they managed to succeed? The fact that the team leader accompanied the group is an important element to this. The team leader has access to information and language skills. He also has access to the team members’ passports. A team leader was also involved in the group defection in China that occurred in April. -Recently, the U.S. and the international community has been focusing attention on foreign laborers more than ever before. What is drawing this interest? The list is long. It includes the poor conditions, the forced labor, and the human rights abuses. The fact that the regime is repossessing their wages is also an object of contention for the international community, because there have been a number of reports indicating that the regime is using these funds to help finance its weapons of mass destruction. That is why there are an increasing number of people voicing the need to regulate or limit the number of foreign workers. -Have you noticed any significant changes as a result of this attention from the global community? Countries all over the world – including Russia, Nepal, Malta and Tanzania – are importing North Korean laborers. The following governments have recently deported North Korean workers: Malta (10 workers), Russia (14), and Nepal (53). Tanzania recently closed two North Korean hospitals that were selling fake medicines to patients. By refusing to extend visas and re-sign contracts, these governments are effectively deporting workers and cancelling programs. Since North Korea is not a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO) or other international bodies, it is difficult to target the government directly with sanctions. So instead, the international community has been approaching the host countries and highlighting the terrible working conditions that the workers are subject to. -The South Korean government said that it will release a report on human rights abuses of North Korean overseas workers. Do you think this report will have any effect? North Korea is very much aware of the international community’s actions. After years of pointing out these shortfalls and criticizing these abuses, it appears that North Korea is coming under pressure. Our strategy is to continue to emphasize the abhorrent conditions and hope that governments with the power to make a difference will take heed. With this strategy in mind, the newly created Center for Investigation & Documentation on Human Rights in North Korea will begin its operations. It was created under the South Korean government’s North Korean Human Rights Act. The center will research and record human rights violations against North Korean residents and overseas workers alike. The government has specifically stated that overseas workers will be reported on. In doing so, South Korea is seeking to align with the international community and bring about lasting change. Our Foreign Affairs Minister Yun Byung Se has strongly argued that North Korea’s use of foreign labor is tantamount to human rights abuse. It will be too challenging to investigate all of these sites directly, so I think for the road ahead we will need to partner with the host countries in order to conduct this research. -What is the preferred methodology for this kind of research? We need to partner with the governments who are using North Korean labor and consult with NGOs. We need to find out how the workers are being treated, whether they are being exploited, and how they are being paid. We need to work towards a system in which the workers are paid directly. It would also be ideal if their work sites were monitored by police and regulated by agencies to ensure a safe workplace and humane treatment in accordance with international labor laws. All of these efforts require diplomatic coordination.  Daily NK’s special correspondence team traveled to the Ussuriysk region near Vladivostok, Russia, and found North Korean laborers hard at work at a construction site. 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Tasmania’s seasonal workforce to be bolstered with appropriate safeguards

first_imgTasmania’s seasonal workforce to be bolstered with appropriate safeguards Guy Barnett,Minister for Primary Industries and WaterThe Tasmanian Government recognises the importance of our agriculture industry, and we’re working closely with growers and industry groups to promote seasonal work opportunities and to ensure Tasmania attracts and retains harvest workers.We have prioritised local jobs this year and it’s pleasing to note that industry is aiming to double the number of local workers this year from around 3000 last year, to more than 6000, which if realised would be a fantastic effort.While we believe that Tasmanians will help us fill this gap, we have also formally opted into the Federal Government’s restart of the Seasonal Worker Programme and we have been actively working with industry and Public Health to determine a safe pathway for these workers to enter Tasmania under stringent COVID safety conditions.The first flight carrying around 150 seasonal workers is due to arrive in Hobart tonight from Timor Leste, before they enter 14 days mandatory hotel quarantine.These workers have been subject to a stringent approvals process at both a state and federal level, through the Australian Government’s restart of the Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme and we are taking every precaution.Before departing Timor-Leste, all the workers will have undergone a comprehensive health check, and were required to return a negative COVID-19 test before flying. When they arrive in Tasmania this evening, further health screening will be conducted by Health representatives.The quarantine hotel will be used exclusively for this cohort, and each person will be tested twice during their stay for COVID-19.If any of the workers return a positive COVID-19 test during their quarantine period, they will be safely transported by Ambulance Tasmania into a separate health facility. The Department of Health has retained the Fountainside Hotel as a dedicated facility for COVID positive patients (not requiring hospital care) to ensure cases remain isolated and our community is protected. The Royal Hobart Hospital is also prepared and ready to safely treat COVID positive patients requiring hospital-level care.Each worker will need to return a negative COVID-19 test result before joining the local workforce in harvest, packing and processing roles.The Tasmanian Government is absolutely committed to supporting our agricultural industry, as a significant contributor to our economy and way of life, but I want to reassure Tasmanians that the health, safety and wellbeing of our community remains the Governments number one priority. /Public Release. This material comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here. Why?Well, unlike many news organisations, we have no sponsors, no corporate or ideological interests. We don’t put up a paywall – we believe in free access to information of public interest. Media ownership in Australia is one of the most concentrated in the world (Learn more). Since the trend of consolidation is and has historically been upward, fewer and fewer individuals or organizations control increasing shares of the mass media in our country. According to independent assessment, about 98% of the media sector is held by three conglomerates. This tendency is not only totally unacceptable, but also to a degree frightening). Learn more hereWe endeavour to provide the community with real-time access to true unfiltered news firsthand from primary sources. It is a bumpy road with all sorties of difficulties. We can only achieve this goal together. Our website is open to any citizen journalists and organizations who want to contribute, publish high-quality insights or send media releases to improve public access to impartial information. You and we have the right to know, learn, read, hear what and how we deem appropriate.Your support is greatly appreciated. All donations are kept completely private and confidential.Thank you in advance!Tags:Ambulance, AusPol, Australia, Australian, Australian Government, community, covid-19, Department of Health, Federal, federal government, Government, health facility, Hobart, public health, TAS, Tasmania, Tassie, Timor, Timor Lestelast_img read more