The 81-page report, titled “Sweatshop, North Korea,” was based on testimony from 18 North Korean defectors in South Korea, including four former workers for the construction projects.An estimated number of 200,000 to 400,000 construction workers toil more than eight hours a day under extreme conditions for 10 years although they receive hardly any wages.
Many of them, both men and women, are physically weak and came from lower-class families. They were forcibly taken to toil when they were in their senior years at middle school.
Calling them “storm troopers,” the report said their life resembles that of the military. It claimed that they live in groups in different regions and are asked to follow orders.
“This is one of the odd systems of exploiting labor,” it said. “It can be called a modern caste system.”
A former “storm trooper” in South Korea testified that the workers had to stay up from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. to build railways, roads, power plants, apartments and others
“We often stayed up through midnight during the times of speedy battle,” he said, referring to period when the tyrannical state rushed them to finish construction projects in preparation for important events, such as the seventh congress of the ruling Workers’ Party in May.
The workers were starved all the time because they were given poor meals despite their long working hours and that their monthly salary was too low to buy nutritious meals.
The workers usually worked in a group of 10 and the women were also forced to fulfill physically-demanding jobs as much as men.
“Everyone was given an equal amount of work regardless of their gender. Beatings and safety hazards were commonly seen,” a defector said.
Full article: N. Korea has up to 400,000 slave workers (The Korea Times)