Archive for the ‘Labor conditions/wages’ Category

94,000 North Koreans working in China, Hong Kong news outlet says

Monday, June 12th, 2017

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Reports KBS:

Quoting data by the China National Tourism Administration, the broadcaster said that the number of North Korean workers in China increased from about 50-thousand in 2006, when the North conducted its first nuclear test, to 94-thousand-200 in 2015, earning the regime billions of yuan, or hundreds of billions of won, a year.

Full article:
Hong Kong Paper: 94,000 N. Koreans Working in China
Korean Broadcasting Service
2017-06-12

Share

No more North Korean labor in Bulgaria

Monday, May 29th, 2017

Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Reports Yonhap:

Bulgaria said Monday that it has suspended imports of workers from North Korea amid criticism that Pyongyang is extorting money earned by their people overseas.

The action was taken along with the Czech Republic and Romania, the Bulgarian Embassy to South Korea said in a press release.

“Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Romania set a precedent by ceasing their labor imports after realizing the conditions of North Korean overseas laborers,” it said.

“The suspension of receiving North Korean laborers by these three East European countries is an example where states have actively taken measures against the extortions of the laborers’ remuneration,” it added.

Full article:
Bulgaria suspends labor imports from N.K.
Yonhap News
2017-05-29

Share

Official salaries in the DPRK

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

Thae Yong-ho, the former North Korean ambassador to London, gave a press conference in which he offered some interesting information on official salaries.

According to Yonhap:

North Korean diplomats and their families who are dispatched to foreign countries live together as one group. It’s like a microcosm of North Korean society, he said. An ambassador takes home an average monthly salary of about US$900-1,100 although the amount varies depending on the country. A minister gets about $700-800.

“Many people question how one could live in London with a salary of less than $1,000 … (Because of that) All the North Korean diplomats based overseas make extra income using all means possible,” according to Thae.

Diplomats are also required to earn foreign currency and send it to the regime, a compulsory task designed to make up for North Korea’s dwindling foreign exchange income due to sanctions, which is crucial to its development of nuclear weapons.

“Diplomats affiliated with the ministries of foreign trade or finance are given specific tasks to earn foreign currency, failure of which leads to interrogation by the head office,” Thae said.

Those from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are not given a specific amount of money to earn, but they are subject to monthly performance reviews, he said. “Many people fail to live up to the task and go under tremendous psychological pressure and suffering.”

North Korean diplomats in overseas countries are also subject to close surveillance by the state. The ambassador or second-highest ranking official at a foreign mission is often designated the chief surveillance official and required to report on his embassy staff.

Wary of potential defection by diplomats, the regime keeps one member of the overseas-based diplomat’s family in North Korea as hostage, he noted.

You can read the full story here:
High-profile defector sheds light on everyday life of N. Korean diplomats
Yonhap
2016-12-29

Share

Chinese companies requesting more North Korea guest workers

Friday, February 5th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein 

Demand is increasing for North Korean guest workers among Chinese companies in the Sino-Korean border region, reports Joongang Ilbo. The Chinese labor force increasingly migrates to other regions for better wages and working conditions, and one company looking to recruit North Korean employees says one third of their Chinese workers left last year to find better-paying jobs elsewhere:

Companies in three northeastern Chinese provinces are vying to recruit as many North Korean workers as they can to capitalize on cheap labor costs – moves that run counter to the international community’s efforts to impose further economic sanctions on North Korea following the country’s fourth nuclear test early this month.

Chunwoo Textile, a company based in Dandong, Liaoning Province, lost 100 of some 300 workers last year to factories operating in other provinces because wages were much higher there.

China’s northernmost provinces of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang reputedly offer much cheaper wages for labor-intensive workers compared to other regions.

In Dandong, the average monthly wage stands at 2,843 Chinese yuan ($431.90), much less than the 5,313 yuan offered in Guangdong Province.

In 2012, North Korea and China agreed that 40,000 North Korean workers would come to China on industrial training visas.

Full article:
China seeks more workers from north
Ko Soo-suk and Kang Jin-kyu
Joongang Ilbo
01-27-2016

Share

Labour regulations in EDZ modified

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

According to the Pyongyang Times (2016-2-3):

The DPRK has modified its labour regulations for the economic development zones, which were worked out according to a decision of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly on December 12 2013.

According to them, a foreign investment business is encouraged to employ local manpower as much as possible but it may hire foreign management staff, specialists and technicians.

The fixed monthly minimum wage is set by the central agency for the special economic zones guidance in consultation with relevant provincial-level people’s committees and EDZ management agencies.

An employee is supposed to work 8 hours a day or 48 hours a week on average.

A business shall make sure that employees take rests on local holidays and Sundays.

The forms of payment to the employees involve wage, incentives and bonuses.

According to the quality and amount of work, payment should be done correctly and employees who have carried out the same amount of work are to be paid evenly on an equal footing irrespective of gender and age.

The monthly wage is up to a business. In this case, it cannot be set lower than the fixed minimum wage.

While making preparations to start operation, a business may set the salary for employees, apprentices and unskilled hands within the scope of over 70 per cent of the fixed minimum wage.

A business shall pay for its employees’ regular and supplementary leaves in accordance with the number of their days off.

Female staff on maternity leave shall be paid over 60 per cent of the leave allowances.

If a business works an employee while on leave, it shall pay him or her the equivalent of 100 per cent of the wage per day or hour, as well as their leave allowances.

A business shall give supplementary living allowances that account for over 60 per cent of their wages per day or hour to those who are under training or out of work due to the management.

When it works an employee late at night or overtime, the business shall pay him or her 150 per cent of the wage per day or hour.

If the work is done overtime late at night, 200 per cent of the wage per day or hour shall be given to the worker.

If a business works an employee on holidays or Sundays without compensatory days off, it should pay 200 per cent of the wage per day or hour.

The wage is given in cash, and the bonuses and incentives may be paid in the form of notes or goods.

The DPRK citizens and their families in the EDZ are to benefit from the social and cultural policies of the government, namely free education and medical service, social insurance and social security.

If any breach causes damages to the lives, health and properties of a business or employee, it shall be restored to their original state or compensated duly for the damages.

By Cha Myong Chol PT

Share

North Korean workers ordered home after Moranbong debacle

Friday, December 18th, 2015

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

According to Daily NK, North Korean authorities have ordered workers in China home following the cancelled Moranbong Band concert:

Just five days after North Korea canceled Moranbong Band’s Chinese tour and ordered an immediate return of the band back home, the authorities issued an order to all sojourning employees in China, most of whom are employed at trading companies, to report to Pyongyang.

On the 16th, our Daily NK reporter spoke with a source residing in Pyongyang, who informed us that no concrete reason had been given along with the order. And so on the 16th, agricultural workers, forestry workers, traders, and workers affiliated with Mansudae Art Studio boarded a train to return back to North Korea.

This was corroborated by an additional source in the capital.

Our source expressed concern over the drastic measure, wondering if the issue of the Moranbong Band’s canceled tour might be exploding into a bigger issue. “When you call back scores of workers abroad, that’s a pretty big deal,” she pointed out.

One has to wonder whether all workers in China could really have been recalled home, given their substantial numbers. Just to give a sense of the size of this labor force, in 2013 the number of North Korean workers that entered China was around 93,000, according to South Korean statistics. Most likely only a small share was stationed permanently in the country, but even so, recalling each and every one on such short notice sounds like a logistically implausible operation.

Read the full article:
NK orders workers in China back home
Kang Mi Jin
Daily NK
2015-12-18

Share

DPRK doctors earn hard currency abroad

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

According to the Joong Ang Ilbo:

North Korea is making $15 million a year from deploying 1,250 doctors and nurses in 26 nations where they perform illegal medical practices such as abortions and injections of illegal substance, South Korea’s intelligence agency reported Tuesday.

Some 1,170 North Korean medical staff are working in Africa, according to lawmakers Lee Cheol-woo of the ruling Saenuri Party and Shin Kyoung-min of the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy. They were briefed by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) on Tuesday as members of a parliamentary intelligence committee. The NIS reported that North Korean doctors are engaged in illegal medical practices with a focus on earning foreign exchange. They also sell dubious medical products.

The NIS said the North was accused of bribing local officials to keep their illegal activities going. Citing a report by a local newspaper in Tanzania published on Feb. 21, the NIS said North Korea was caught trading sexual enhancer products, or aphrodisiacs, that contained mercury 185 times higher than international standards.

Dispatching medical operatives overseas appears to be part of Pyongyang’s long-running effort to earn foreign currency. The intelligence agency also reported that North Korea, which it said was accelerating its exports of labor, is earning $230 million a year on average from 58,000 workers in 50 different countries overseas. Pyongyang is also reportedly planning to export 3,000 new workers to labor in the fields of construction, medical and IT industries.

North Koreans sent abroad also work in logging, mining, construction and agriculture.

The two lawmakers also quotes the NIS as reporting a sense of disappointment among North Koreans after Pyongyang failed to deliver on its promise to improve people’s living conditions to mark the anniversary of the 70th foundation of the Workers’ Party. The Communist state is also suffering from an acute shortage of electricity, according to a NIS report.

On Choe Ryong-hae, secretary of the Workers’ Party who has vanished from the public view for nearly a month, was sent to a rural agricultural cooperative for “revolutionary re-education,” the NIS reported, citing a classified source of information.

The agency said Choe was removed from power partly to take responsibility for a partial collapse of a power plant in Yanggang Province.

Read the full story here:
Pyongyang’s flying doctors pull in $15M a year: NIS
Joong Ang Ilbo
Kang Jin-Kyu
2015-11-25

Share

New taxes to kick in for KIC firms

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

According to Yonhap:

South Korean firms operating in North Korea are required to pay a land use fee starting this year, officials here said Wednesday, after a decade of exemption.

The relevant authorities of the two Koreas will soon begin talks on how much more the 120 South Korean companies in the Kaesong Industrial Complex should pay, they added.

Launching the facilities in 2004, the North agreed to exempt the South from a land use fee for a decade. The measure expires this year.

“It’s a kind of tax to be paid once a year,” a Unification Ministry official said. “Thus, the North’s Central Special Development Guidance Bureau and the South’s Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee should begin consultations before long.”

The two sides recently ended months of negotiations on the level of wages for around 53,000 North Korean workers in the Kaesong zone near the inter-Korean border.

They agreed on a 5-percent increase in minimum wages from US$70.35 a month.

Read the dull story here:
S. Korea to pay ‘tax’ for Kaesong complex
Yonhap
2015-11-4

Share

Factory owners rent out unused space

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

According to the Daily NK:

Recently in South Pyongan Province, the practice of renting out sections of state-run factories to individual entrepreneurs is taking off. This latest development is further evidence of de facto private enterprise flourishing on the back of state facilities.

“There is a factory that manufactures coal mining equipment located in a building that is now partially rented to a donju [literally ‘money masters,’ or new affluent middle class] who is making shoes there. By renting out the building, the authorities can also make ‘a little extra’, which is a nice benefit for them,” a source in South Pyongan Province reported to Daily NK on October 27.

“‘A little extra’ refers to profits falling outside of enterprise work quotas utilizing state labor and raw materials.”

An additional source in the same province corroborated this news.

She added that the officials in charge of the factory must first make sure that they will be able to sell enough of the extra goods manufactured by the donju on the market to make it worth their while. If they calculate that it will be a profitable good to sell, they go ahead and agree to rent out part of the factory warehouse.

Winter is, without fail, a busy season for shoe markets in North Korea. Demand explodes for cotton wool and fur shoes to prevent frostbite. North Koreans put cotton wool into black or army green cloth to make shoes known as “Tong (a mispronunciation of the word Chinese-derived word in Korean meaning ‘winter’) Shoes”. Fur shoes are boots made of synthetic leather and stuffed with compressed cotton wool or sheep wool.

As North Korea’s primary shoe factories, “Pyongyang Shoe Factory” and “Sinuiju Shoe Factory” receive a quota for the number of shoes they should produce to distribute seasonally, they cannot adjust their production levels to meet actual market demand. This leaves a hole in the market the donju are keen to step in and fill.

What really determines the quality of wool or fur shoes is the sole. The donju buy rubber in the general markets and hire laborers to construct soles from it in, as might be expected, exceedingly unsafe work environments. With no access to safety masks, let alone other protective gear, workers inhale overwhelming quantities of noxious gases in the process.

Nonetheless, workers eager to do the job are never in short supply– those hired for the task are paid who wages 2-3 times that of typical day laborers working for the donju.

Although it is possible to sew the leather outer parts and midsoles of shoes at home, proper equipment is required to produce quality insoles. Rubber is pulverized, reconstituted using a machine, and then mixed with fresh rubber to fabricate insoles. However, a compressor is needed to complete this task, which is where the factories come in.

These days, although it is possible to earn a fair amount of money producing goods at home, “if you’re more ambitious and want to enter into large-scale production you’ll run into an electricity supply problem,” the source noted.

“While it can be said that utilizing the unused space of factories contributes to national production, in the end it’s really the factory’s supply of electricity that proves to be the lure.”

In fact, the first thing donju check when scouting a factory to approach is that the facility has a stable power supply. If all on this front checks out, the donju seek out the cadres in charge and set up a contract stipulating that said entrepreneur pay 30% of his or her profits from the sale of goods produced in the factory as rent.

The factories involved in these deals are typically those associated with the coal mining industry. These enterprises produce the majority of the equipment used in North Korea’s coal mines, and because iron is the most used raw material in the production of the related equipment, such factories receive a larger allotment of electricity than typical light industry factories.

There are, of course, other types of factories receiving steady streams of electricity, but for the time being, they are off limits, according to the source. By way of example, the source explained that because munitions factories harbor a litany of “national secrets, ordinary citizens cannot access them no matter how much money they spend.”

And yet, the fact that North Korea’s donju are now turning their focus towards the production of consumer goods can be interpreted as yet another sign of North Korea’s ever-expanding marketization.

She analyzed these trends as follows: (1) as the relative purchasing power of North Korea increases, demand is increasing as well; (2) markets are developing within North Korea, and state-operated stores are also being rented out and run as de facto private operations; (3), the number of retail outlets selling consumer goods is skyrocketing; (4) the use of ‘servi-cha’ has especially improved the distribution process; and (5) compared to goods directly imported from China, the price competitiveness of local goods has improved as well.

In the past, North Korea’s foreign-currency earning enterprises or the donju would go to Zhejiang Province in China or other regions with low labor costs and import large quantities of consumer goods at low prices to distribute within North Korea.

However, these cheap goods fall short of satisfying the market preferences of North Korean citizens today, the source concluded.

Read the full story here:
As factories rent out space, donju move in and set up shop
Daily NK
Seol Song Ah
2015-11-2

Share

Kim Jong Un pays ‘special incentive’ to entire North Korean people

Monday, October 5th, 2015

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

With the 70th anniversary of the Workers’ Party ahead, Kim Jong Un has decided to pay every North Korean soldier and civilian a ‘special incentive’ amounting to 100% of their salary. Unlike past major anniversaries, in which the government paid citizens goods like blankets or wall clocks, this time it is distributing cash. This is seen as a reflection of the deepening marketization in North Korea.

On September 25, 2015, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported, “As the Workers’ Party of Korea reaches its 70th anniversary, all workers, military personnel, and recipients of scholarships, subsidies or pensions will be granted special prize money amounting to 100% of their monthly living expenses.”

Thus, it appears a special incentive will be issued not just to soldiers and working citizens, but to college students, retirees with pensions, and people like the unemployed who receive a basic living subsidy. In short, it will be paid to every adult citizen, excluding those in high school and younger.

This is the first time since the establishment of the regime that North Korean authorities have paid such an incentive to all citizens and soldiers instead of an unspecified large number of individuals.

One similar instance in which North Korea distributed a special incentive to the people was the 1989 World Festival of Youth and Students. In celebration of the results of the ‘200 Day Battle’ to prepare for the festival, the government presented a special incentive to laborers, technicians, college students with scholarships, and office workers such as clerks. However, the army was excluded from this benefit, as well as retirees and the unemployed.

The offering of special prize money to an unspecified large number of people is not unprecedented. However, the extension of this money to soldiers is seen as a new characteristic. While in the past the government has paid special incentives to individuals or entire farms or corporations that exceeded the regime’s economic plans, until now the government has never extended such incentives to all citizens and soldiers.

Kim Jong Un’s decision to distribute this money to every citizen and soldier ahead of the 70th anniversary of the Workers’ Party is viewed as an attempt to gain public support and strengthen internal unity.

Share

An affiliate of 38 North