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N. Korea intensifies screening of candidates for overseas work

North Korean authorities have greatly intensified ideological screenings when selecting workers to be sent overseas, apparently in response to continued defections by overseas workers.

Speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons, a Daily NK source in Pyongyang said Thursday that the North Korean authorities have recently stepped up background checks when selecting workers to be sent overseas, with more thorough ideological screenings.

The increased efforts to weed out potential troublemakers comes as overseas workers continue to defect from their homes and workplaces. Daily NK reported in 2021 that 11 North Korean construction workers living in Moscow came to South Korea via another country.

Last year, Daily NK reported that nine North Korean workers living in Russia came to South Korea in November 2022 after defecting through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office in Moscow.

To deal with the continued defections, North Korean authorities discussed increasing the number of security personnel tasked with monitoring overseas workers. They also ordered security officials to submit regular reports on their surveillance activities and the movements of overseas workers.

The source said defections by overseas workers are a constant worry for North Korean government officials, who are desperate for foreign currency.

“It takes two or three times as long to select workers to send overseas because of the intensified background checks,” the source said. “When they select workers, they not only thoroughly investigate the candidate’s past and usual behavior, but also make sure that none of their family members or relatives have defected.”

In particular, if someone is sent overseas to earn foreign currency and defects, “their family and relatives back home become members of the ‘hostile class,’ all because of that one person,” the source said, adding that the government is more thoroughly vetting candidates because monitoring more people is a burden on the government.

Russia-based laborers are better earners than those in China

Meanwhile, North Korean authorities plan to continue sending workers overseas.

According to the source, North Korea plans to repatriate about 5,000 of its workers currently in Russia and send about 15,000 new workers. Most of the North Korean workers in Russia are construction workers under the supervision of the External Construction Bureau.

On the other hand, North Korea plans to send relatively few workers to China. “The authorities plan to repatriate about 1,000 workers currently in China and send about 2,000 new ones,” the source said.

“Most of the workers in China are women who work in sewing, seafood processing, and restaurants,” the source said. “The workers sent to Russia generate much more foreign currency than those sent to China, and it’s easier to fly under the radar of the international community when you send workers to Russia. So [the authorities] plan to send the most workers to Russia.”

North Korea is also drawing up plans to send a total of about 1,000 additional construction workers to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates and about 200 new workers to Kuwait while repatriating about 100 workers currently in the country.

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler.

Daily NK works with a network of sources living in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous for security reasons. For more information about Daily NK’s network of reporting partners and information-gathering activities, please visit our FAQ page here.

Please send any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

Read in Korean

February 27, 2024 at 12:30PM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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