North Korean workers in Russia escape after being assigned to Ukraine

North Korean construction workers sent to Russia by Kim Jong Un go on the run after learning they are being sent to Ukraine

  • Workers abandoning their livelihoods instead of facing life in war-torn Donbas
  • Even management officials are choosing to leave their posts and disappear
  • North Korea has been sending workers overseas for years but takes most of the workers’ salaries for itself 

North Korean construction workers deployed in Russia are going on the run after hearing they have been assigned to work in Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine.

High demand for construction in the heavily war damaged Donbas region of Ukraine has led to an increased need for workers, with North Korean immigrants making up a large chunk of the workforce.

Likely fearing for their lives amid the Ukraine-Russia conflict, droves of North Korean workers are instead choosing to flee their jobs and go into hiding, Radio Free Asia reported.

‘After getting the news that the workers would soon be moved to a new construction site in Ukraine, and needed to settle everything by the end of September, many have escaped. It’s not only the construction workers, but also management officials escaping,’ an unnamed source told the publication.

North Korean workers are running away to avoid being posted to the war-torn region of Donbas, Ukraine (pictured on Sept. 28)

It was also reported that workers were ‘shaken’ by the prospect of being sent to Donbas, instead choosing to live a life in hiding.

North Korea has sent manual labourers overseas for years now, usually keeping the majority of workers’ salaries for itself, providing the reclusive nation with a supply of foreign currency.

Despite having most of what they earn taken away, workers still get more money doing this than they would working back home in North Korea, though it seems it is only enough to scrape by on.

‘North Korean workers live a tired life of despair. They cannot save any money even though they work all day from 8 am to 8 pm and then do additional overtime work at night,’ the source said. 

As well as construction, workers wind up in other tough industries such as manufacturing, textiles, and mining.

Though UN Security Council sanctions issued on North Korea in 2020 banned countries from allowing such a practice, Russia is still believed to be one of the biggest hosts of North Korean manual workers.

The Russian port city of Vladivostok is a popular location for North Korean workers

According to a UN report published in 2019, around 30,000 North Korean workers were living in Russia in 2017, with the majority working in the port city of Vladivostok, close to the North Korea-Russia border.

China was also home to as many as 50,000 North Korea construction workers in the last 10 years, though this number is believed to be much lower today.  

Meanwhile, North Koreans aren’t the only ones trying to distance themselves from the war, with Russians themselves attempting to flee their own country to avoid being drafted. 

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