Washington, D.C. — One of two Voice of America exclusive stories by reporter Eun Jung Cho covering abusive practices against North Korean workers in Qatar was cited in a special United Nations human rights report, and focuses fresh attention on North Korea’s mistreatment of its civilian workforce. The story cites a meeting between North Korean officials and Qatar’s Construction Development Company (CDC) in which the construction company fired nearly half its North Korean workers, as a result of their supervisors’ repeated violations of Qatar labor laws.
The UN’s Special Rapporteur, Marzuki Darusman, noted the decision in May 2015, when the construction company fired the 90 employees. According to the company, “[North Korean] supervisors responsible for the well-being of their workers have been continuously forcing them to work more than 12 hours a day. The food provided to their workforce is below standards. Site health and safety procedures are ignored regularly.” One of the workers reportedly died as a result of the abusive treatment. CDC, which builds luxury hotels and government facilities in Qatar, warned that the company would fire the remaining workers immediately if there were any further violations of labor laws. More violations occurred, and CDC fired its entire North Korean workforce in late July.
“Ms. Eun Jung Cho’s reporting for VOA Korean, including risky travel to Qatar to investigate exploitive North Korean labor conditions there, is a great example of how good journalism can impact the human condition,” says VOA’s East Asia Division Director Bill Baum.
The UN report, released October 5th was submitted to the General Assembly in accordance with a U.N. General Assembly resolution calling for the North Korean human rights situation to be referred to the U.N. Security Council. The United Nations and human rights organizations continue to raise concerns about poor working conditions of North Korean workers abroad.