North Korean workers abroad have been ordered to stay put and not contact any foreigners in an apparent effort by the North Korean government to stave off their defections, the U.S.-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported Sunday.
“The North Korean government has ordered workers dispatched overseas and employees residing abroad not to leave their assigned workplaces and residences, as well as not directly contacting foreigners other than the locals,” the RFA said in its recent report, citing North Korean sources.
The North Korean government is keeping especially keen watch on its workers in China and Southeast Asian countries, whom the country dispatched for the national task of earning dollars.
The workers in the regions were told, through North Korean Embassies there, not to contact South Koreans, as well as Americans and other Westerners, according to the RFA report.
The recent government order appears to be aimed at tightening the government’s control of North Korean workers living overseas amid a growth of defections, as well as the recently reported abduction of a North Korean doctor in Libya.
Earlier this year, North Korean sources said that North Korea is dealing with a growing number of defections by overseas workers, who are under severe pressure to meet their monthly dollar-earning quotas.
In May, a North Korean doctor and his wife were reported to have been abducted by an armed Islamic group in Libya.
More than 50,000 North Koreans are currently working overseas to earn foreign currencies for the North Korean government, according to a human rights report submitted to the United Nations last month by Marzuki Darusman, U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights situation in North Korea.
China, Russia, Cambodia, Kuwait, Ethiopia, Libya, Malaysia, Mongol, Myanmar, Poland and the United Arab Emirates are among the hosts of North Korean workers, he said.