Despite protests from the U.S. State Department, Kuwait has signaled that they will continue to welcome North Korean workers into their country.
In a report from the Associated Press, Kuwait did not dispute they are still issuing visas to North Korean workers. According to Kuwait’s Public Authority of Manpower there are 6,064 North Korean laborers in the country.
North Korea has been sending tens of thousands of their citizens abroad over the years to work under near-slave labor conditions for employers who are generally abusive and unconcerned for their wellbeing. The wages they earned are sent back to the regime in Pyongyang, effecting a workaround from international sanctions against North Korea like the ones passed unanimously last week in the United Nations Security Council.
Human rights groups that have monitored the North Korean laborers sent abroad have said the regime has earned hundreds of millions of dollars every year from their wages, using the money to keep key government projects afloat, like their ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs. Meanwhile, their citizens in countries like Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar endure abysmal conditions under the watchful eyes of government intelligence officers assigned to keep tabs on them.
The State Department has identified Kuwait as a “Tier 2” country with regard to combating human trafficking, which means it is a country that “[does] not fully meet the TVPA’s (Trafficking Victims Protection Act) minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.” The country was lauded by former Secretary of State John Kerry for halting direct flights from Pyongyang last year.
With North Korea back at the forefront of international news, specifically regarding its weapons programs, the United States is likely to lean a little heavier on its Gulf allies to be more proactive in removing this well-known and widely documented cash flow.
The slave-like conditions North Koreans and other foreigners are working under in places like Qatar will be something to remember five years from now as the world shifts its attention there for the 2022 World Cup.
Image courtesy of J.A. de Roo via Wikipedia