Even in Poland, Workers’ Wages Flow to North Korea

In December, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution requiring all countries to expel North Korean workers within two years. The resolution, which followed the North’s launch of a new intercontinental ballistic missile in November, also imposed a sharp cut in oil shipments to the nation.

On Thursday, President Trump accused China of allowing fuel to be smuggled into North Korea, saying Beijing had been caught in the act. The assertion came amid reports of secret ship-to-ship transfers in international waters by Chinese and Russian vessels.

China and Russia, which host the majority of North Korea’s overseas workers, have long resisted American efforts to impose a global embargo on the nation. Even the European Union agreed only in October to stop renewing work permits for North Koreans.

Poland sent soldiers to fight alongside Americans in Iraq, but is nonetheless one of the few countries still hosting North Korean workers over Washington’s objections.

The State Labor Inspectorate, which regulates working conditions at Polish companies, said that perhaps 450 North Koreans remained in the country as of mid-2017, employed by at least 19 companies, including a complex of greenhouses growing tomatoes south of Warsaw.

But The New York Times found North Korean workers at two other businesses — the shipyard in Police, near the German border, and a factory that makes shipping containers in the town of Czluchow, 100 miles southwest of Gdansk.

In Poland, provincial governments issue work permits to foreign laborers, and there is little coordination with national agencies. As a result, no one appears to know precisely how many North Koreans are in Poland or what they are doing.

The Foreign Ministry has urged local governments to stop approving work permits for North Koreans, and new legislation taking effect in January will require them to do so. But until now, the provinces have persisted, illustrating the durability of commercial relationships forged during the Cold War, when Poland was a fellow member of the Communist bloc.

Relations between Poland and North Korea cooled after the fall of the Soviet Union, but Poland remains one of seven European nations to maintain embassies in Pyongyang.

The Times requested information on work permits issued to North Koreans from Poland’s 16 provincial governments. Nine responded, reporting that they had given 124 new permits to North Koreans in 2007, and 253…

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