Russian Universities Collude with North Korean Laborers to Evade UN Sanctions

Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting with university students on Russian Students Day. Photo: Press Office of Moscow Mayor.

SEOUL – North Korea has been carrying out an extensive, state-led endeavor to send North Korean laborers to Russia using student visas obtained through corrupt partnerships with Russian universities.

According to information from North Korean defectors who escaped from Russia to North Korea in recent years, North Korean officials with government credentials have been going to Russia to help obtain student visas for North Korean laborers.

The North Korean officials negotiate with contacts at local Russian universities to issue student visas.

Using these student visas, North Korean laborers fraudulently enter Russia posing as students, and then corrupt university officials issue the laborers “certificates for practical training.”

The North Korean laborers subsequently use these certificates to work at construction sites rather than engaging in actual practical training.

According to a North Korean defector surnamed Kim who spoke on condition of anonymity, more than 30 laborers from his company entered Russia in this manner on at least three separate occasions.

The local Russian construction companies employ North Korean laborers at a reduced cost, and the laborers use a portion of their wages to cover bribes to the corrupt university officials who helped them get the phony student visas and practical training certificates.

The laborers also need to pay financial tributes to Kim Jong Un, as well as hefty fees to the North Korean officials who helped them enter the universities. 

Ultimately, the laborers end up with very little money in their hands.

According to the defector interviewed for this article, North Korean laborers who worked in Russia for more than five years eventually returned to North Korea with little money for all their hard work.

As North Korea continues to send laborers to Russia to work in pitiful conditions and earn money for the regime in violation of multiple UN security resolutions, the international community must step up the pressure on the North Korean regime and demand that enablers like Russia end these corrupt practices.

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