North Korean laborers to leave Czech Republic by year’s end

Korea Herald
12/19/2007

Czech authorities have stopped extending visas of North Korean laborers in conformity with U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang and all will probably leave by year’s end, officials were quoted as saying by Associated Press.

Czech authorities stopped renewing residency permits for North Korean workers on Jan. 25 in line with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718 adopted in October 2006 and laborers have gradually left since then, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

The sanctions are aimed at punishing North Korea for carrying out its first nuclear test, on Oct. 9, 2006 _ a test that prompted international condemnation.

Among other things, the resolution allows cargo to and from North Korea to be stopped and inspected for prohibited goods, bans the import and export of certain military material, and freezes the assets of, and bans travel by, individuals and companies involved in the country’s programs to produce weapons of mass destruction.

On average, several hundred North Korean laborers have been working in various clothing and shoe factories in the Czech Republic since 2001, the ministry said.

The laborers have been leaving the country as their visas expired and all were expected to be gone by the end of the year, said Katerina Jirgesova, a spokeswoman for the Czech foreign police.

While 331 North Korean workers were still in the country in May, only 134 remained on Nov. 27, she said. Police have investigated allegations that the workers were used as a source of revenue for the North Korean government, she said, but she added adding that no wrongdoing could be determined. The allegations reportedly were made by a former North Korean diplomat and a major Czech labor organization.

None of the workers applied for asylum in the Czech Republic, she said.

There do not appear to be many North Korean laborers in other parts of Europe. The Italian labor ministry said it did not have a program of this nature. Officials in Portugal and the Netherlands said there were no North Koreans employed in their countries.

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