North Korean overseas workers are feeling the heat as countries are stepping up their efforts to implement U.N. sanctions against their motherland.
On Wednesday, the Polish foreign ministry told VOA's Korea Service that Poland does not intend to issue new work permits to North Korean workers to comply with the two latest U.N. Security Council resolutions. These measures were passed in response to the Kim Jong Un regime's long-range intercontinental ballistic missile launches and sixth nuclear test.
"The Ministry of the Family, Labour and Social Policy has sent out a communication to voivodship [provincial] offices asking them to withhold all decisions regarding applications for work permits concerning [North Korean] citizens," the foreign ministry said in an email to VOA, "until the process of transposition and development of a common position by European Union member states regarding the scope and method of implementing the resolution is completed."
Fewer North Koreans working in Poland
With not one work visa being issued to a North Korean national in 2016 and 2017, the number of North Koreans employed in Poland stood at about 400 as of January this year, a decline from 550 in July last year, according to the Polish government's estimates. In 2014, the Polish consul in Pyongyang issued 147 work visas, and in 2015, 129 such visas were issued.
The Polish foreign ministry said Poland, which is one of the European Union countries that hires many North Korean laborers, does not have any systemic measures in place that would prevent citizens of other countries, including North Koreans, from taking up work in the country, imposing a work ban would represent "an unequivocal demonstration of discrimination on the grounds of nationality."
"In this context, we welcomed Resolution 2371 of 5 August 2017 and 2375 of 11 September 2017, the first to refer to the employment of [North Korean] citizens abroad in so decisive terms," the ministry said.
Since North Korea has long been accused of using money paid to its overseas workers to finance its weapons programs, the two latest U.N. resolutions for the first time included restrictive measures on North Korean laborers abroad, first banning the hiring of additional North Korean workers, then barring the renewal of their work contracts when they expire.
Residency permits not renewed
Similar action was taken by Kuwaiti authorities, who have stopped issuing entry visas of any kind to North Korean nationals and forbidding them from transferring their residency permits from one company to another, according to the country's implementation report on U.N. Security Council resolution 2371 submitted to the council in late August.
"Expired residency permits are not renewed, and permit holders are requested to leave the country promptly once the permit has expired," reads the report.
Also taking heed of the Security Council resolutions on North Korea are Senegal and Qatar. Senegal suspended the issuance of entry and short-stay visas to North Korean workers. Qatar discontinued issuing the approvals of employment requests and the renewal of residence of workers.
Jenny Lee contributed to this report.