|Russia has started the process of expelling North Korean migrant workers from the country’s Far East in order to
comply with a United Nations Security Council resolution passed in December, officials said Tuesday.
The resolution, passed in response to North Korea’s test of a ballistic missile in late November, stated that all countries must
send North Korean migrant workers home within 24 months. It aims to cut off funding to the isolationist regime so
Pyongyang won’t have the resources to continue the development of its nuclear weapons program. It has been reported that
up to 90 percent of North Korean workers’ wages is forcibly sent back to Pyongyang. North Korea has denied the claim.
If Russia follows through with its pledge to deport all North Korean workers, it could deal a significant blow to the country's
“If Russia is truly enforcing UN Security Council resolutions and expelling North Korean workers I think that would initially
be a positive sign," Lisa Collins, a Korea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Newsweek. “ If
other countries also follow suit and expel North Korean workers this could cumulatively have a large effect on the total
amount of money that the North Korean regime earns abroad.”
North Korea earns between $200 million and $500 million dollars a year from overseas laborers, Collins added.
But the resolution could simultaneously have a negative impact on Russia’s economy, Russian officials say. Russia is among
the world's leading employers of North Korean workers, and North Korean migrants play an important role in the
construction industry in Russia’s Far East. Moscow gave work visas to at least 24,000 North Koreans in 2017, according to
the country’s Interior Ministry.
Russia’s ambassador to North Korea, Alexander Matsegora, told reporters Tuesday that there are at least 12,000 North
Korean migrant workers in the country’s eastern Primorsky Krai region alone. Russia relies on North Korean labor to fill low-
paid, dangerous construction jobs. A State Department report from 2017 said that North Koreans work like slaves in Russia
and that some workers are subjected to forced labor.
Matsegora claims the allegations of forced labor are “complete nonsense,” but he conceded that Chinese laborers would be
unwilling to take on the construction jobs because the pay is too low.
Last month, the head of Russia’s Far East region called on Moscow to allow around 10,000 North Koreans to remain in the
country despite the sanctions. But Matsegora stressed that all North Korean workers will be expelled in compliance with the
Security Council resolution, despite what he characterized as a “blow” to the Russian economy.
Still, some say there are reasons to doubt that Russia will follow through on its commitment.
“North Korea has sent laborers to work in logging camps in Siberia and the Russian Far East for decades, and in more recent
years has also sent a growing number of laborers to work in sectors such as construction,” Daniel Wertz, a representative of
the National Committee of North Korea, told Newsweek.
“There is reason to be skeptical about the depth of Russia's commitment to enforcing these sanctions,” he added. “Even if
Moscow formally prohibits the employment of North Korean laborers, Russian authorities might ultimately turn a blind eye
to the practice.”