A senior human rights investigator at the United Nations issued a report on North Korea’s kidnapping of numerous foreign nationals. Marzuki Darusman, U.N. Special Rapporteur for human rights in North Korea, addressed the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, saying that more than 200,000 people have entered North Korea and have never been heard from again, with the overwhelming majority being Koreans who crossed into the north during the Korean War.
He called for a "comprehensive mapping of international abductions and disappearances," urging U.N. bodies to continue to pressure the North Korean government. The North's practice of systematic abductions was publicized by the U.N. last year, as it shone a light on the fact that Pyongyang engages in abductions as a matter of state policy.
The investigator also raised another question on North Korea’s human rights issue, saying that some North Korean workers are reported to be in Qatar building facilities for the 2022 World Cup. He said that he would probe allegations of an estimated 20,000 North Koreans working abroad as bonded laborers or slave laborers in terms of their poor remuneration and long working hours, mainly in China, Russia, and the Middle East.
More surprisingly, the monitoring group NK Watch estimates that the numbers are larger. It puts the number of workers at more than 100,000 in 40 countries, and said that they earned US$3 billion annually in foreign currency for the Pyongyang government. The Seoul-based rights group also called for an investigation into complicity by the host countries.
Darusman told Reuters, "It has now emerged more and more visibly, and therefore it is time to address the matter in a way that clarifies the real situation."
North Korea defector Ahn Myeong Chul, who is now executive director of NK Watch and was a former North Korean guard, said that most North Koreans worked in forestry, construction, and restaurants while the authorities are holding the families of the workers. “It is the reason why they cannot escape the work site or complain about the conditions," he told reporters.