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Refused asylum to S. Korea, N. Korean defector dies on the streets of Russia

As the world lived in fear of COVID-19 in the year 2020, a North Korean (identified here as “A”) managed to escape from a North Korean construction company in the Nakhodka region of Russia. The individual slipped away from the construction site and took refuge in a remote part of the country, hoping to find a better life, but the pandemic cruelly shattered his hopes and dreams.

Most construction work in Russia was halted because of the pandemic, which made it harder for North Koreans in Nakhodka to make a living, and their quality of life gradually deteriorated. To make matters worse, North Korea had taken the extreme measure of closing its national borders, temporarily stranding workers overseas with no way to return home. The North Korean workers in Nakhodka were desperate and had nowhere to go.

When “A” faced his harsh reality and uncertain future, he decided to run away. The first thing he did after escaping was to apply for asylum at the United Nations to pursue his dream of living in South Korea. But his application was rejected on the grounds that he had no documentation to prove his North Korean citizenship (as North Korea collects the passports of overseas workers to prevent them from defecting), and he was thrown out into the unfriendly streets of Russia.

Now that he was an illegal alien in Russia, “A” had little place to lay his head. Even when he developed symptoms of COVID-19, he could not go to a shelter or quarantine center. The defector hid among Uzbeks and Kazakhs to avoid arrest by the police, growing a beard and rubbing soot on his face to avoid attracting attention.

“A” meets a bitter end after failing to obtain asylum 

The only way “A” could make ends meet was by living a very unsanitary lifestyle. He kept hunger at bay by eating expired food from supermarket dumpsters and wearing old clothes that others had thrown away. He worked as a day laborer on construction sites with other foreigners, trying to save his wages for the medicine he needed to survive.

But as time went on, the defector’s health gradually deteriorated. He was now too sick to work and could no longer afford his medication. Because he was an illegal resident of Russia, he had no access to proper medical care.

The defector’s soul and body were crushed by his cold and lonely existence in Russia. As winter approached, his breathing became difficult and he died in an alley. That was the bitter end of the defector’s modest dream of starting a new life in South Korea. If his application for asylum had been accepted, he might still be alive today.

The story of “A,” who died without any help from the international community, illustrates the reality for North Korean workers who flee North Korean construction sites in Russia and live in hiding as illegal aliens. Even now, their right to survival and their right to a decent life are under threat.

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 26, 2024 at 06:58AM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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