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U.S. State Department submits report on N. Korea's labor exports to Congress

2016/08/30 11:23

WASHINGTON, Aug. 29 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. State Department has turned in a report to Congress that details North Korea's abuse of its people through overseas labor, including the list of countries and individuals that accept or use such labor, diplomatic sources said Monday.

The report, which was submitted recently, is seen as the latest in a series of measures by Washington to increase pressure on Pyongyang over its human rights record. In July, the U.S. imposed its first-ever sanctions on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for his role in the country's human rights violations.

Under the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016, the department was required to submit the report within 180 days of the law's February enactment in the wake of the North's fourth nuclear test and a long-range rocket launch.

The department also plans to submit a report on the North's political prison camps in the future.

Details of the latest report were not immediately available, but it was supposed to include a list of countries that forcibly repatriate refugees from the North, a list of countries where North Korean laborers work, including countries that have formal arrangements with the North or any person acting for or on behalf of the North to employ North Korean workers.

The report is also expected to include a plan for bilateral and multilateral outreach, including sustained engagement with the governments of partners and allies to brief them on North Korea human rights issues, as well as public affairs and public diplomacy strategies.

About 50,000-60,000 North Koreans are believed to be toiling overseas, mostly in China and Russia and mainly in the mining, logging, textile and construction industries. The average wage was stated as USD$120 to $150 per month, but in most cases employing firms paid salaries directly to the North's government.

The North reportedly receives more than $100 million from this system per year.

They are also forced to work usually between 12 and 16 hours, and sometimes up to 20 hours, per day, with only one or two rest days per month. Health and safety measures are often inadequate, and workers are given insufficient daily food rations.

North Korea has long been labeled as one of the worst human rights violators. The communist regime does not tolerate dissent, holds hundreds of thousands of people in political prison camps and keeps tight control over outside information.

But the North has bristled at such criticism, calling it a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime.

jschang@yna.co.kr

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