Anchor: KBS has learned that a group of North Korean laborers in Russia expressed their intention to defect from the regime and seek asylum in South Korea. The construction workers were reportedly unhappy with the poor working conditions and intense pressure to send back their earnings to provide the North with much needed foreign currency.
Kim Bum-soo has more.
Report: It has been made known that a group of North Korean workers in Russia is seeking asylum in South Korea.
A South Korean government source told KBS that nearly ten North Korean laborers working at a construction site in Russia approached the South Korean consulate general in St. Petersburg at the end of August and expressed their intention.
The workers snuck out of their lodging within the construction site. They are now at a safe area with the help of an international human rights organization.
The South Korean government and the international organization are discussing how to bring them to South Korea.
The source said the North Koreans were aware of recent defections by a minister at the North Korean Embassy in London, Thae Yong-ho, and North Korean employees in China.
The North Korean workers are said to have decided to defect to the South due to poor working conditions, growing pressure to pay foreign cash to the North Korean authorities and anxiety about their own safety.
Other North Korean workers in Russia previously revealed to KBS their poor living conditions.
[Sound bite: N. Korean laborer in Russia (Korean / voice altered)]
"Our comrades built a toilet in a small house and installed a dining room right there. So, someone is defecating at one side of the dining room."
"Meeting the quota is okay while making money here. But when we return, we don't have money to give the unpaid quota."
The North Korean construction workers in Russia make around 980 U.S. dollars a month, but they have to hand over around 665 dollars to the North Korean authorities.
A North Korean construction worker in the Russian Far East city of Vladivostok committed suicide in January. In March, it was reported that two North Korean workers in Qatar fled to a local police station.
Around two-thousand North Koreans are laboring at construction sites or factories in Russia. A total of about 58-thousand workers are dispatched overseas.
It is known to be the first time a group of North Korean workers abroad sought asylum at a South Korean diplomatic post without the help of brokers.
Kim Bum-soo, KBS World Radio News.