North Korea risks coronavirus eruption by defying UN and sending migrants abroad
And given analysts believe the Hermit state must itself be badly hit by COVID-19, the move risks exporting cases into President Vladimir Putin’s nation. In accordance with sanctions imposed by the United Nations last year to deprive Pyongyang of cash necessary to fund its nuclear and missile programmes, migrant workers were sent back. However, a citizen of Korean descent in Vladivostok, the Russian city close to the border with North Korea, told Radio Free Asia: “The North Koreans who withdrew last year because of sanctions are preparing to enter Russia again.
“We expect that they will be dispatched as trainees and tourists.”
In accordance with the UN measures, North Korean workers were required to return to the country by December 22, and countries are prohibited from issuing new work visas.
However, by admitting them on trainees or tourist visas, Russia can argue it is not in breach of the rules.
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North Korea is preparing to redeploy migrant workers to Russia to reestablish a much-needed source of foreign cash that had been put on hold due to concerns over the coronavirus crisis
“Last week, a senior official from the North Korean diplomatic office, someone I’ve known for a long time, asked me to look for a local company in need of North Korean labour.
“North Korea might send us workers starting in May, so he asked me to look for jobs for them in construction, processing, manufacturing and agriculture.”
The source suggested workers would have been sent across the border even earlier if the outbreak had not happened, explaining: “Most of the North Korean workers in Russia that left in December said they would return in the spring.
“This didn’t happen because of the unexpected coronavirus situation.”
Another source suggested Vladivostok was already prepared for the return of the North Korea workers.
The insider said: “North Korean restaurants here in Vladivostok are currently open.
“The workers are expected to come back soon. In a little while there will be so many North Koreans here.
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In a little while there will be so many North Koreans here
North Korean source
“I heard from a manager at one of the restaurants in Vladivostok that they’ll be dispatched soon.
“He claimed that they are now in preparations in Pyongyang and will begin arriving in May.
“The three-month tourist visa or the one-year training visa cost more because the workers must travel in and out of North Korea often to keep them valid.
“This is why most of the North Koreans can only work in Vladivostok and Khabarovsk, because those cities are connected to North Korea by train.”
Officially, Russia has 1,534 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and eight deaths, while North Korea claims to be completely free of the disease.
However, speaking earlier this month, former CIA analyst Jung H Pak, who now works for the US-based Brookings Institute, said: “It’s impossible for North Korea not to have a single case of coronavirus.”
Similarly, General Robert Abrams, commander of US Forces Korea, said: “It is a closed-off nation, so we can’t say emphatically that they have cases, but we’re fairly certain they do.
“What I do know is that their armed forces had been fundamentally in a lockdown for about 30 days and only recently have they started routine training again.”
And journalist Roy Calley, who told of his trips to the country in his book Look With Your Eyes and Tell The World, told Express.co.uk in February: “If North Korea has closed its borders to tourists, then you can guarantee it has a problem with the virus as they are still desperate to allow people in.
“Also China is its closest ally, so this isn’t a decision to be taken lightly.
“As for dealing with it? My sense is that it won’t be able to.”
On Friday, the 38 North website published a picture of construction work on a new hospital in Pyong Yang – although the project got underway in December, before the COVID-19 outbreak, traced to Wuhan in China, had been widely confirmed.
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