Do North Koreans Suffer in Poland (analysis and pictures)?

Even under U.N. sanctions, North Korea has a good number of sources of hard currency- one of them being exporting contract workers to various countries for wages which are then largely taken from them by the government back home. This has been happening for a number of years; North Korean workers are to be found in, among others, Iraq, Libya, the United Arab Emirates, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, not to mention the thousands who work in Russia’s Far East and Mongolia. Some of them (around 500) are in Poland, more precisely in Warsaw, in the area of Wilanow, a cosy place in the south of the Polish main city.


These North Korean workers were dispatched by Rungrado, a global North Korean trading company ( a kind of North Korean chaebol) through arrangement with Polish authorities. They live under the strict control of Polish-speaking North Korean supervisors.

In any case, the people of Wilanow appreciate them, especially for their courtesy and honesty. The owners of the closest shops are in touch with them. These North Korean workers are buying (but less than Polish workers) beers and basic food.

According to my analysis and my long observations, North Koreans work for more than 10 hours a day. According to South Korean medias, their wages are apparently deposited into a communal bank account controlled by the North Korean government in dollars or in zlotys (Polish currency), but they don’t see much of it for the government in Pyongyang takes away the majority. More than the half their wages are deducted for the cost of food or so-called voluntary contributions.

The problem in Poland, as for many of the countries where the North Koreans are to be found, is that there are no legal restrictions or minimum wages, so as long as the North Koreans have work permits there is nothing more their host government can or need do.

The only possible legal basis for contesting the situation, for some of the workers at least, is Article 1 of an “EU Council Framework Decision of 19 July 2002 on combating trafficking in human beings.”

Thus, whether or not the North Koreans wish to go overseas and work, if they are mistreated in the above ways it can still be called trafficking and is still punishable. However, it is debatable whether the North Korean workers themselves would wish for the alternative; a one-way ticket back to North Korea.

This is undoubtedly a situation repeated in every country where North Koreans work in the name of the “Dear Leader.”

DPRK Worker in Warsaw
A North Korean worker in Warsaw (Source: Nicolas Levi)
DPRK Workers in Poland
North Koreans I saw and with who I exchanged a few words, were smiling and talking to each others. There were no real interactions with Polish people. (Source: Nicolas Levi)

 

North Korean workers in Poland
We can recognize that these North Koreans come from different provinces of North Korea (source: Nicolas Levi)
North Korean Workers in Poland - Nicolas Levi
Meanwhile I got interviewed by the Polish Television (source: Polsat/Nicolas Levi)

 

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