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N. Korea seen to be examining its workers in foreign nations

2015/07/07 11:49

SEOUL, July 7 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is believed to be examining its workers employed abroad this month, a Unification Ministry official said Tuesday, amid reports that mid-ranking North Korean officials are seeking asylum.

North Korea is believed to have dispatched about 50,000 laborers to an estimated 40 countries to earn hard currency as it has been under heavy U.N. sanctions due to its nuclear and missile tests and strained relations with South Korea.

According to a Radio Free Asia (RFA) report, North Korea has forcefully called in some of its workers in China, indicating that the communist country is tightening its grip on their activities.

A South Korean Unification Ministry official said the North is seen as examining the activities of its laborers in foreign countries, rather than summoning them to the communist country.

"The North is known to be observing its workers abroad, following its similar examinations in July and August last year," the official said, asking not to be named.

"It is not known whether the move is aimed at inspecting such workers for arrests or checking whether they are doing their duties well," he said. The examination is being conducted in all areas where North Korean laborers are working.

The remarks came as the North Korean ruling party and government officials are reported to have sought to defect out of fears over possible executions or punishments due to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's so-called reign of terror.

South Korea's state spy agency earlier said that since taking power in late 2011, Kim has had about 70 senior officials executed in an effort to establish himself.