The U.S. State Department last Thursday released its annual Trafficking in Persons Report, the first under the Biden Administration. And in a section in which the U.S. called out governments for their participation in human trafficking, they mentioned several specific countries, one of which was North Korea.
Last year’s Trafficking in Persons Report included the first-ever list by the State Department of countries implicated in trafficking, including 12 governments: Afghanistan, Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Russia, South Sudan, Syria, and Turkmenistan,” the State Department said.
The 2021 version lists 11 countries, with Belarus having been removed from the list. North Korea has been included in “Tier 3” of such countries ever since State began publishing the report in 2001.
In the section devoted to North Korea, the State Department detailed why that country was included.
“The Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity, is not making significant efforts to do so; therefore North Korea remained on Tier 3. During the reporting period there was a government policy or pattern of forced labor in mass mobilizations of adults and children, in prison camps as part of an established system of political repression, in labor training centers, and through its imposition of forced labor conditions on DPRK overseas workers,” the State Department report said of North Korea.
“Reports indicate the government utilized the COVID-19 pandemic to increase the number of political prisoners, thereby expanding its existing capacity to subject North Koreans to forced labor.”
State went on to make several recommendations, including that North Korea end “the use of state-sponsored forced labor”, end summary executions as well as coercion tactics, “provide assistance to victims exploited in the DPRK and to North Korean victims returned from abroad,” and that it take steps to “criminalize sex trafficking and labor trafficking.”
The report also accused the government of Russia of being “actively complicit in the forced labor of North Korean workers.”
“The government did not screen North Korean workers for trafficking indicators or identify any North Korean trafficking victims, despite credible reports in previous years that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) operated work camps in Russia and exploited thousands of North Korean workers in forced labor,” the report said.
Per Yonhap News Service, the report also accused such other governments as Kenya, Malaysia, and Thailand of having harbored North Korean workers who had been forced into free labor.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.