North Korean workers celebrate May Day in Pyongyang, May 1. (Photo/Xinhua)
North Korea plans to send 120,000 workers to Chinese cities near the China-North Korea border before the end of the year, reports Chosun Ilbo, South Korea's largest newspaper.
An initial report suggested that Pyongyang would be sending 40,000 workers to China, but Beijing allowed the number to be increased to 120,000, the newspaper reported Saturday. The workers involved will mostly be concentrated in the northeastern Chinese cities of Tumen, Hunchun, Dandong, Shenyang, Yanji and Changchun, the paper added.
Many of the North Korean workers will be those who lost their jobs when Seoul halted trade with Pyongyang in 2010 after the latter sank the Cheonan, a corvette belonging to the South Korean navy. The incident is said to have cost North Korea US$300 million to US$400 million in foreign earnings every year.
The North Korean workers will earn around US$200 to US$300 a month in China depending on their line of work, which will include mining and manufacturing. Up to 20,000 workers are reportedly from the computing and IT industries.
China is said to have agreed to the deal as the North Korean workers will be paid lower salaries and will be easier to manage, as they will be living in organized dormitories.
The project was said to be pushed by the relatives of Jang Sung-taek, the influential vice chairman of the National Defence Commission and uncle of Kim Jong-un, Pyongyang's young new leader. Early this year, Kim reportedly issued an order to send as many domestic workers overseas as possible, despite the high risk of flight.
North Korea has been exporting large amounts of coal and iron ore to China since the first half of 2010. The country reportedly also sent around 30,000 to 40,000 workers to more than 40 countries, who together contribute around US$100 million in foreign earnings to the North Korean economy annually.
Analysts say the 120,000 workers to be sent to China will be able earn up to another US$400 million for North Korea each year.