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Photos show squalid conditions faced by N. Korean workers in Russia

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One of the photos obtained by Daily NK of a construction site in Russia worked by North Koreans. The workers reportedly use flimsy boards without any safety equipment in the scaffolding to save on building materials even when working on tall buildings. (©Daily NK)

Daily NK recently obtained several photos of construction sites in Russia with North Korean workers. The photos show that the working conditions pose serious safety risks to the laborers.

The photographs obtained by Daily NK are from a site where North Koreans have been working in Vladivostok, Primorsky Krai, in the Russian Far East, from 2022 until recently.

The photos show houses, villas, and one-story commercial buildings built by North Koreans working in Russia.

Most North Korean construction workers are members of ten-person teams, but smaller buildings are typically built by teams of five or fewer people who live on site, and construction takes three or four months.

Life is relatively relaxed on small construction sites, so the people who get these jobs tend to be more experienced. They must also have earned the trust of North Korean officials in the companies that manage the foreign workers and be able to afford bribes to those officials.

Workers face terrible working conditions

But a source in Russia said the workers are housed in squalid accommodations, typically a shipping container shared by several people.

One of the photos taken in Russia shows a North Korean working on a flimsy wooden plank in the middle of winter. The scaffolding for a building at least two stories high consists of individual planks propped up on a framework of metal poles, with no other safety measures in sight.

A construction site in Russia worked by North Koreans. The workers reportedly use flimsy boards without any safety equipment in the scaffolding to save on building materials even when working on tall buildings. (©Daily NK)

“North Korean construction workers are required to conserve building materials and complete the project as quickly as possible. So even if they’re building something ten or more stories high, they’ll only put up the minimum amount of scaffolding needed for the job,” the source said.

“Sometimes workers have an accident and fall when the boards break,” he added.

Because workers have to pay for medical expenses resulting from workplace accidents, they usually go to the doctor only when they are seriously injured, the source said.

A construction site in Russia worked by North Koreans. A North Korean worker can be seen standing on one of the flimsy boards. (©Daily NK)

North Korean construction workers endure brutal work schedules that extend well beyond 12 hours a day, from 8 AM to 11 PM. They often have to light the site after dark so they can work until 2 or 3 in the morning to keep up with a tight construction schedule.

To stay on schedule, workers often have to work long days, even in the brutal Russian winter, when the mercury can drop to 30 degrees below zero. And while workers are provided with gloves and other winter gear, that gear is often worn out or the wrong size, the source said.

Many workers regret going to Russia for work

Another of the photos taken in Russia shows a North Korean construction worker with a white string tied around his winter gear.

A North Korean is seen working at a construction site in Russia. A narrow string can be seen tied around the waist of his winter coat. (©Daily NK)

“The winter clothes often don’t fit. If the clothes are too big, workers tie a string around their waist to keep out the draft,” the source said.

“Working conditions on Russian construction sites are so bad that human rights are not even an afterthought. Moreover, the workers’ wages are so meager that many of them regret coming to Russia when they return home,” he said.

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

June 18, 2024 at 12:30PM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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