Thinkings about North Korean workers in Poland

Being asked my many international broadcasting channels about North Korean workers (I published already in 2010 an article entitled  North Koreans suffer around the world for the South Korean website and also a refreshed version under the title of Aktualna sytuacja pracowników z Korei Północnej w Polsce, for Polish speaking readers). I decide to provide some additional information.  The aim of the current column is to  discuss some misunderstandings regarding these „slave workers”

Firstly, in any cases, I consider that these North Korean workers in Poland are not slaves. These North Koreans are not the property of the North Korean state. All North Koreans employed in Poland were recruited through a a fastidious recruitment process. According to some former North Korean workers established in Kuwait, usually, some Ads are more or less available in North Korean companies for working abroad. The most loyal and those who wants to travel and work abroad are questioned by KWP officials. There skills are also verified by North Korean companies. It must be underlined that not all of these false „slaves” are obtaining a low qualification job. Many of them (more than 50%) are skilled workers.

DPRK Workers in Poland
North Korean workers in Warsaw (Source: Nicolas Levi)

Secondly, the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to stop delivering visas to North Korean workers. I’m dubious toward a such affirmation. I think that this announcement is only temporary. We have no proofs that in the future, Poland will deliver no visas to future North Korean candidates. I do not trust the current Polish policy on this issue. Please take also in account that many North Koreans workers are women (143 out of 377 Work permits delivered to North Koreans in 2013 were for women) and are therefore not employed in the construction industry or in shipyards. Media are too often concentrated on men employed on construction sites but what about women ? Why we do not mention them? They are present in Poland, some of them are employed in restaurants in Warsaw and on tomato fields (in Piotrowice).

Thirdly, some institutions are processing to inspection on the places where North Koreans are working. These inspections are usually confirming that North Koreans are well treated. In order to proove the contrary, I stronly encourage (if it wasn’t done), to proceed to these inspections using a Korean translator for deeper inspections. On these sites, there are usually some North Koreans who are speaking polish. According to two sources, these supervisors, studied in Poland in the 70s (some of them with North Koreans diplomats based currently in Poland).

Last but not least, if these slaves would be so unhappy in Poland, why are they not fleeding? From my observations, many of these North Korean workers are under the control of old Polish security guards. These Polish guards are about 70 years old (usually these people are taking up additional jobs in order to increase their pensions) and for sure, North Koreans can very easily flee because these Polish guards haven’t the physical capability to catch and bring them back. These North Koreans are not fleeing because they don’t have places where they would go and settle. Furthermore, they left a family in North Korea, consequently a defection will be considered as a selfish decision.

Finally, I’m highly preoccupied by how are transmitted amounts of money to these North Korean workers. According to me, it should be our main concern.


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