North Korean slaves is an interesting article by Alain Devalpo about North Korean workers exported into Russia.
“There were three waves of North Korean worker immigration during the 20th century,? explained Larisa Zabrovskaya, a historian who is based in Vladivostok. The first started with the end of the second world war and the liberation of Korea, when Soviet fish-treatment factories called on North Korean manpower. In the 1950s there were about 25,000 of these workers and their families living in the Soviet Union.
“The second wave took place after a secret meeting between Leonid Brezhnev and Kim Il-sung (3) in Vladivostok in 1966,? said Zabrovskaya. “The two leaders decided to install lumberjacks in timber camps, between 15,000 and 20,000 of them in any year.?
In those days mostly prisoners, both criminals and opponents of Kim Il-sung’s regime, headed for the inhospitable lands where there was no need for barbed wire to fence in would-be escapees. That is no longer the case, said Zabrovskaya: “In recent years, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, has met twice with Vladimir Putin. They discussed North Korea’s debt, which dates from the days when the Soviet Union was supporting its North Korean ally.? Putin remained intransigent: cancelling North Korea’s debt was out of the question, despite its economic situation: “To pay off the debt, Pyongyang said it would keep sending workers.?
But there is no longer any need to send the state’s prisoners: “People leave for the camps or to work on building sites voluntarily. According to the customs, more than 10,000 North Koreans with work visas cross the border each year.? Everybody knows that they go as a result of a bilateral agreement. But the truth about their working conditions is a closely guarded secret.
(via, once again, A Glimpse of the World, where the article is replicated. )