Among the four human rights resolutions on country situations to be adopted by the General Assembly this year is the resolution on human rights violations in North Korea.
UN Watch welcomes the resolution, and is gratified that it includes, for the first time, specific mention to the plight of North Korean overseas workers:
2. (a)(x) Violations of workers’ rights, including … the exploitation of workers sent abroad from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to work under conditions that reportedly amount to forced labour;
UN Watch first raised the issue of North Korea’s abuse of overseas workers on March 16, 2015, during the UN Human Rights Council debate on North Korea, in the presence of the Special Rapporteur Marzuki Darusman.
Taking the floor on behalf of UN Watch, our partners from NK Watch delivered this statement:
We wish to raise the issue of the North Korean overseas workers, which has so far escaped international attention. Numerous North Korean workers are dispatched abroad, watched and controlled by the DPRK authorities twenty-four seven, overworked every day without any holiday or rest, and do not receive any medical treatment or compensation. North Korean authorities are exploiting their salaries and using that money for their own means.
The condition of these workers is much like slavery, unfortunately with the complicity of many other governments which host these workers. My organization has interviewed such workers and submitted their testimonies to the Special Rapporteur on Slavery.
Mr. Rapporteur, we ask you to please examine the case of the North Korean overseas workers and hold to account not only North Korea but also the governments that cooperate with them.
UN Special Rapporteur Darusman responded:
Finally, may I express also appreciation for the intervention of the NGOs who have flagged the known issue of so-called North Korean overseas workers, enforced workers, and the fact that [we] need to further coordinate with the thematic working groups within the United Nations.
In the press conference that followed on the same day, Darusman told Reuters:
The U.N. human rights investigator for North Korea said on Monday he would probe allegations of an estimated 20,000 North Koreans working in slave-like conditions abroad, mainly in China, Russia and the Middle East.
In his report to the General Assembly, on October 28, 2015, Darusman discussed in detail the plight of the North Korean overseas workers, their slave-like treatment, as well as how the regime profits in the millions of dollars from their labor.
Now, one year later, the United Nations with this GA resolution is doing the right thing by heeding the voices of the victims.