North Koreans face Mongolia exit as U.N. sanctions bite

AFP-Jiji ULAANBAATAR (AFP-Jiji) — North Koreans have toiled and slept at construction sites in Mongolia, they have operated cashmere sewing machines, and their acupuncture skills are highly prized in one of the few democracies employing them.

But the nearly 1,200 North Koreans living in the country wedged between Russia and China must now pack their bags as Mongolia enforces tough United Nations sanctions severely curbing trade with Pyongyang.

The United Nations estimated in September that 100,000 North Koreans work abroad and send about $500 million in wages back to the authoritarian regime each year.

But the U.N. Security Council ordered nations to stop providing guest worker permits to North Koreans after Pyongyang detonated its most powerful nuclear bomb.

The United States is now pushing for more sanctions after the regime tested another intercontinental ballistic missile in late November.

North Koreans have to leave Mongolia by the end of the year as their one-year work authorizations will not be renewed, the labor ministry said.

“Private entities will not be able to offer new contracts due to the U.N. resolution. Mongolia has been following every part of the resolution,” Shijeekhuugiin Odonbaatar, a Mongolian Foreign Ministry official, told AFP.

The number of North Koreans working in Mongolia has dropped every year since peaking at 2,123 in 2013. There were 1,190 North Koreans employed in the vast country of 3 million people as of November — often under murky work and living conditions.

Most of the North Koreans who work abroad are in China and Russia, but they have also been found elsewhere in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

Across the world, they work 12-hour to 16-hour days, with only one or two days off per month. The North Korean government takes between 70 percent and 90 percent of their monthly wages, which range from $300 to $1,000, according to the U.S. State Department.

But their days abroad are numbered.

About 150 North Koreans have left Angola. In Qatar, the contracts of about 650 construction workers will expire next year. Poland, where as many as 500 have labored, will not renew work permits.

The head of a Russian parliamentary delegation visiting North Korea this week said “everything” must be done to allow those who have already received work permits to finish their jobs in Russia, where an expert estimates around 30,000 live.

In Mongolia, construction companies have hired North Koreans for their reputation for working long hours without complaint.

They live in toolsheds of construction sites or in the basements of apartment projects. They never take time off or even leave the construction sites as they are not allowed to wander in the city on their own.Speech

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