More North Korea workers receive no pay amid sanctions, survey says

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Oct. 28 (UPI) — International sanctions on North Korea are taking a toll on ordinary North Koreans who earn no income even when they show up for work at factories, according to a new South Korean study.

The survey of 109 North Korean defectors who left their country of origin in 2019, conducted by the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University, shows declining rates of participation in officially recognized economic activity at state-owned enterprises, Korea Economic Daily reported Wednesday.

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North Korea’s labor participation rate at government-sanctioned workplaces stands at 71.6%, the survey says. It is the lowest on record since labor participation began to be measured in 2012, according to the report.

The majority, or 66%, of the defectors said they received no income, or witnessed others receive no income, at state-owned plants and other enterprises, even if they showed up for work. That rate is the highest on record, according to the South Korean research.

Analysts say overall production is down at state-owned entities and that the decline is correlated to an increase in sanctions.

Informal healthcare providers are also on the rise in North Korea, according to defectors. Until 2011, about 70% of respondents said they had experience using the informal health services. That rate increased to 90% in 2019 and again in 2020.

Defectors also said North Korea officially runs a “free healthcare system,” but due to scarce medical supplies and equipment, under-the-table payments are necessary at state hospitals to gain access to services.

North Korea’s infrastructure has drawn concerns in the South that Pyongyang has been unable to contain the coronavirus pandemic, despite state claims of zero cases.

On Wednesday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in a budget speech to the National Assembly the two Koreas must find a way of coexistence and work together on preventive anti-epidemic measures, according to Newsis.

North Korea has declined offers of talks but on Oct. 10 during a national anniversary Kim Jong Un sent “warm wishes” to “fellow countrymen in the South.” Analysts have said Kim could be signaling an interest in returning to talks.