Compliance and risk practitioners, beware: A new report published by the U.S. Department of State detailing aspects of the human rights situation in North Korea has listed Chol Hyun Construction as a North Korean company that practices state-sponsored slavery.
Chol Hyun Construction, acting on behalf of the DPRK government, exports workers from the DPRK to other countries, primarily Gulf States and Africa. The State Department's report cites a media reports claiming Chol Hyun Construction requires its workers in Kuwait to log extremely long hours (on average, 14 hours per day) and confines its workers to their quarters when they are not working.
The same media report indicated these workers are paid meager salaries. The report explains workers receive roughly $800-$1000 per month, 40 percent of which is paid directly into a North Korean government bank account, 20 percent is withheld by the site supervisor for company operating costs, and another 10 percent is withheld for room and board expenses. The remaining $165-$200 per month belongs to the worker, but workers are often required to give their cash to the site supervisor for “safe-keeping.”
These workers are also forbidden from leaving the work site and group housing facility without permission from the North Korean security officer assigned to the work site. A South Korean media outlet also reports that North Korean workers in the Middle East, including employees of Chol Hyun Construction are kept in slave-like conditions, including having salaries and passports withheld by DPRK security officials assigned as site supervisors, meager food rations, poor living conditions, and severe restrictions on their freedom of movement.
Section 304 (a) of the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016, Public Law 114-122, enacted in February 2016, requires that the Secretary of State provide a report to Congress every 180 days that: (1) identifies each person the Secretary determines to be responsible for serious human rights abuses or censorship in North Korea and describes the conduct of that person; and (2) describes serious human rights abuses or censorship undertaken by the government of the DPRK or any person acting for or on behalf of the DPRK in the most recent year ending before the submission of the report.
The report was submitted to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Financial Services, and the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs of the Senate.
“This report continues to shine a spotlight on the serious human rights abuses committed by the Government of North Korea, including those involving extrajudicial killings, forced labor, torture, prolonged arbitrary detention, as well as rape, forced abortions, and other sexual violence inside the country,” according to the State Department. “Many of the country’s human rights abuses underwrite the regime’s weapons program, including forced labor in the form of mass mobilizations, re-education through labor camps, and overseas labor contracts. Thousands of North Koreans are sent abroad every year to work in slave-like conditions, earning revenue for the regime.”
Access the State Department's complete list here.