North Korea is sending fishermen and laborers to work on ships in Uruguay, according to a report from Greg Scarlatoiu at HRNK.
The report it is the first confirmation of North Korean workers being sent to work in South America.
The laborers travel to the country’s capital via Beijing and Paris. One local company called Grupo Christophersen Organizacion Maritima supposedly handles the DPRK workers from there, though Scarlatoiu adds the company’s involvement has not been independently confirmed.
“Faced with intense scrutiny, the North Korean regime appears to be exploring industries and geographic areas where the workers are ‘conveniently’ out of the field of sight of the international community,” the report reads.
The North Korean sailors are picked up directly from the airport, the report continues, and are taken fishing vessels by taxi. Locals told HRNK that the North Koreans mainly worked in groups of 10 to 20 on Taiwanese vessels in the area.
“Practically, unless they are accompanied by watchful North Korean minders, the sailors can’t set foot on Uruguayan soil,” the report adds.
The report also includes photos of the luggage of one the sailors, who accidentally left it at the airport. The bag contained North Korean snacks, and propaganda items and poems written in North Korean.
If accurate the activity in the HRNK report runs up against UN sanctions. The newest resolution passed in March has a provision against using North Korean crews on vessels unless they have first been assessed on a case by case basis.
“(Resolution 2270) calls upon Member States to de-register any vessel that is owned, operated or crewed by the DPRK,” paragraph 19 reads.
The trade in labor mentioned in the article is not the first time North Korea has sent trained crew to work on foreign vessels. Shipping Online, a website focusing on China’s shipping industry still hosts an advert from a North Korean company called MH General Corporation.
The advertisement says the company works across numerous shipping and crew related sectors and has been operating in the region since 2002.
“We have thousand of Crews consisting masters, officers and engineers and deck and engine ratings who fully experienced (sic) … for general cargo ships, bulk carrier, barges and tankers, etc.” the advert reads.
“We are always ready to provide you full sets of crew and make every possible assistance in this connection,” it adds.
The yearly UN Panel of Experts (PoE) also have identified some of the DPRK’s less reputable companies involved in hiring out crew services, including Ocean Maritime Management, a North Korean shipping company and arms smuggler.
“Ocean Maritime Management Company, Limited continues to operate through foreign-flagged vessels, name and company reregistrations and the rental of crews to foreign ships,” the most recent report reads.
North Korea’s own vessels are some of the least safe on the seas, according to Port State Control (PSC) authorities charged with inspecting vessels. A previous NK News analysis of (PSC) data found that DPRK vessels perform very poorly inspections.