02/16/2022, 13.26
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Pyongyang hunting people who help North Korean workers escape from Russia

South Korean missionary groups active in Russia are the first target. A UN official who handles asylum requests in Moscow is another one. North Korea’s crackdown follows the arrest of one of its soldiers at its consulate in Vladivostok. In violation of UN sanctions, some 20,000 North Koreans are reportedly working in Russia.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – North Korean authorities want to find the activists who are helping North Korean workers flee Russia, Seoul-based Daily NK reported based on in Russia.

Recently, Pyongyang sent its own security agents to Russia’s Far East region to gather information on Russians, missionaries and members of NGOs who have contacts with North Koreans or facilitate their escape.

Some 20,000 North Koreans are estimated to be working in Russia, sent by their government to earn foreign currency for the regime of strongman Kim Jong-Un.

Because of international sanctions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes, Russia (along with China) is North Korea's only partner.

North Korea is in a perennial state of economic emergency. The presence of North Korean workers in Russia violates a UN resolution. To get around restrictions, with Russian and Chinese complicity, North Korean workers go to Russia and China on tourist or study visas.

According to the Daily NK, a paper linked to the South Korean Unification Ministry, the North Korean government launched a security crackdown after arresting one of its own soldiers serving at its Vladivostok consulate, from where he apparently tried to escape.

Major Choe Kum Chol, a cyberwarfare officer, is said to have been arrested last September.

According to Radio Free Asia, several North Korean workers defected in Russia last month.

South Korean missionary groups actively helping defectors in Russia are being targeted by North Korea, which considers them “US spies”.

An official with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Moscow has also been in Pyongyang’s crosshairs because she processes asylum requests by North Koreans.

In order to target the groups that help fugitives, the North Korean regime plans to hack emails and bank accounts of those who help defectors.

Kim reportedly ordered the immediate repatriation of all North Koreans trying to flee Russia.

Before COVID-19 restrictions were eased allowing entry to North Korea, suspects were held in detention facilities in Russia operated by North Korea’s Ministry of State Security.

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