As of the end of June, 150 North Korean laborers remained in the middle eastern state of Qatar, according to the country’s latest UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions implementation report uploaded on the 1718 Committee website on Tuesday.
North Korea exports workers overseas in order to generate foreign currency for the government back home and the UNSC has repeatedly expressed its concern that such revenues are being used to support the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
“Most nationals of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea working in Qatar have been repatriated in coordination with their employers,” the implementation report, dated July 20, reads.
“As at the end of June 2018, the number of the remaining such workers in Qatar was 150. The procedures for their repatriation will be concluded through the Ministry of the Interior in coordination with their employers,” it adds.
According to UNSC resolution 2397, adopted unanimously on December 22, 2017, member states are required to repatriate all North Korean nationals earning income in foreign jurisdictions by December 22, 2019.
By March 22, 2019 member states are also required to provide a midterm report detailing all DPRK nationals earning income within their jurisdiction that were sent back in the 12 months since the resolutions’ passage and an explanation of why, if applicable, less than half of such workers were sent back in that period.
In September 2017, the Qatari government issued a statement saying that they would stop issuing visas for North Korean laborers, in line with UNSC resolution 2375, which passed the same month and prohibited the issuing of work new authorizations. In its statement, it said that around 1,000 such workers remained in the country at the time.
Previous estimates on the number of DPRK workers in Qatar varied, however, multiple reports had placed them in the low thousands.
DPRK laborers in Qatar have mostly been involved in the construction sector, with media reports claiming that they took part in the construction of facilities slated for use in the 2022 World Cup – a claim also denied by the Qatari government in its September 2017 statement.
If the latest implementation report is accurate, then Qatar has exported around 850 workers in the 10 months since that statement. In February of this year, a source told NK Pro that they had seen large groups of Koreans on a train traveling from Beijing to Pyongyang, “many of them with bag tags that came from Doha, Qatar.”
The issue of North Korean laborers in use around the world is also one of humanitarian concern, with numerous reports of conditions that amount to forced or slave labor.
This includes being made to work for excessive hours under dangerous conditions, being subject to constant surveillance and movement restrictions and having a significant portion of wages confiscated by government minders accompanying the workers overseas.