ILO calls on Mongolia to protect North Korean workers

By Kim Hyo-jin

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has urged the Mongolian government to improve substandard working conditions for North Korean laborers at local workplaces, according to the Voice of America, Wednesday.

"North Korean workers at Monglian small-sized textile factories and construction sites are involved in forced labor under working conditions that reach far below the world labor market standard," Sophy Fisher, senior communications and public information officer at the ILO regional office for Asia and the Pacific was quoted as saying.

North Korean workers in Mongolia are allegedly forced to stay at the workplace, suffer delayed payment of wages, and are forced to make contributions from their salaries to their supervisors, she said.

"ILO has recommended Ulaanbaatar several times to correct the exploitative labor conditions," Fisher told VOA.

The officer highlighted that Mongolia has obligations to stop such practices because the country is bound by the ILO's Forced Labor Convention, No. 29, which provides that all necessary measures shall be taken to prevent compulsory or forced labor.

Currently, about 2,000 North Koreans work in the Mongolian textile and agriculture industries, a Mongolian diplomat said at a conference hosted by the CSIS in Washington D.C., December last year.

This number is expected to rise to a maximum of 4,000 according to the treaty between Ulaanbaatar and Pyongyang, he added.

North Korea exports workers and supervisors to earn much-needed foreign currency for the regime.

Their number has soared since Kim Jong-un took power in 2011, now totaling about 50,000 to 60,000, according to recent data published by the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights.

Human rights groups have expressed concerns over virtual-slave labor conditions for North Koreans sent overseas by Pyongyang.
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