North Korea has begun sending 40,000 workers to China to earn money for Kim Jong-un’s bankrupt regime, reports Barbara Demick of the Los Angeles Times. Seamstresses, technicians, mechanics, construction workers and miners will work on industrial training visas for less than $50 per month while providing Pyongyang with about $2,000 per year each.
A reporter for NK Daily, a specialty news service in Seoul, told the Demick that as many as 120,000 workers will arrive this year, and an expert on North Korean-Chinese relations echoed the claim.
Experts say the jobs are considered a privilege as wages in North Korea are well under $10 per month, food is scarce for many families and most North Korean workers in China do hard labour for $1 a day and bowls of rice because they are illegal border crossers.
Chronic food shortages in North Korea have been exacerbated by “the nation’s most severe drought in living memory” and 20 per cent of the county’s children are malnourished, according to China.org.cn reporter Jonathan Calkins.
“The life of a North Korean is not about living, but about how to sustain life,” said a former propoganda poet of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il who defected to South Korea in 2004 and began writing poems such as “I Sell My Daughter for 100 Won.”
From the L.A. Times:
“Right now, the North Korean economy is practically bankrupt. In order to expand employment, they need to reform, but the leadership is unwilling. So they look overseas to earn money,” said Park Hyeong-jung, a senior research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification.
ChosunMedia reports that a North Korean agent has been arrested for exchanging about $570,000 worth of counterfeit $100 bills in Beijing and Shenyang from 2001 to 2007 to make money for the regime. Chinese money changers reportedly knew that the notes were fake but exchanged them for yuan at a rate of 1 to 2 instead of the official rate of 1 to 6.
Demick noted that it is unprecedented for Beijing to issue visas for unskilled and semi-skilled workers — especially in a region where there are no labour shortages — and that the deal highlights how far China is willing to go to prop up its “potentially unstable protege.”