North korean work­ers in china on rise: kita

JoongAng Daily - - National - BY KIM JI-YOON jiy­oon.kim@joongang.co.kr

The North Korean work force in China is in­creas­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Korea In­ter­na­tional Trade As­so­ci­a­tion (KITA), in­dica­tive of the eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two coun­tries.

The pop­u­la­tion of North Korean work­ers in China was recorded at 93,000 last year, hav­ing in­creased an av­er­age of about 20 per­cent an­nu­ally over the past four years, KITA said in a re­port re­leased yes­ter­day by the as­so­ci­a­tion’s Beijing of­fice.

In 2010, only 54,000 North Kore­ans made up China’s work force.

Based on Chi­nese Na­tional Tourism Ad­min­is­tra­tion data, almost 44,000 North Korean work­ers en­tered China dur­ing the first six months of this year, and KITA es­ti­mates that this year’s to­tal will be sim­i­lar to fig­ures for 2013.

“The North Korean work­ers pop­u­la­tion is ris­ing so rapidly that some Chi­nese [work­ers] are de­mand­ing the gov­ern­ment con­duct more thor­ough analy­ses be­fore is­su­ing visas to un­skilled work­ers,” said Choi Yong-min, who heads the KITA branch in Beijing. “But when solely con­sid­er­ing eco­nomic ef­fi­ciency, China-based com­pa­nies are more likely to in­crease their hir­ing of cheap North Korean la­bor­ers in the mid and long term.”

De­mand among Chi­nese man­u­fac­tur­ers for North Korean work­ers has risen largely due to cheap la­bor costs. The av­er­age North Korean worker makes about 1,600 yuan ($261) a month, much less than work­ers from other coun­tries and about half of the 3,000 yuan per month that a Chin­abased company pays a lo­cal worker.

Choi ex­plained that most North Korean work­ers in China are in their 20s and 30s and ac­knowl­edged their dili­gent work ethic, which in turn leads to higher pro­duc­tiv­ity.

Ex­port­ing its la­bor force to China seems to be part of Py­ongyang’s strat­egy to ex­pand its yuan re­serve, the KITA re­port said. It also seems to be part of the regime’s way of shift­ing its ex­port model from sim­ple-prod­uct ex­ports to an ex­port of its la­bor force, which has a higher value, it added.

“From China’s point of view, hir­ing cheap North Korean work­ers is a break­through to boost­ing cor­po­rate com­pe­tency by re­duc­ing per­son­nel costs,” the re­port said. “[This mu­tual ben­e­fit] is cre­at­ing a new model of eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Beijing and Py­ongyang.”

The KITA re­port stressed that Korean com­pa­nies op­er­at­ing pro­duc­tion lines in China, many of which have suf­fered from la­bor short­ages and high la­bor costs, should con­sider en­cour­ag­ing lo­cal sub­con­trac­tors to hire North Korean work­ers.

In a survey con­ducted by the KITA of­fice in Beijing of 280 Korean com­pa­nies op­er­at­ing in China, more than 85 per­cent an­swered they were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing work force im­bal­ances. And com­pa­nies based in man­u­fac­tur­ing mec­cas like Guang­dong, for ex­am­ple, are suf­fer­ing work force short­ages.

Beijing and Shan­dong, where the most Korean busi­nesses are op­er­at­ing, have seen their min­i­mum wage dou­ble in re­cent years. The monthly min­i­mum wage this year in Beijing is 1,560 yuan. In Shan­dong, it’s 1,500 yuan.

North Korea re­fuses to al­low South Korean com­pa­nies to di­rectly hire North Korean na­tion­als. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, how­ever, Korean com­pa­nies’ Chi­nese sub­con­trac­tors may legally hire them.

Vis­i­tors to the 35th SIWA and Diplo­matic Com­mu­nity Bazaar at the 63 Con­ven­tion Cen­ter shop on Mon­day for crafts and cloth­ing.

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