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Hamish Macdonald is an NK News contributor and has previously worked at The Korea Herald and for the Australia Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney.
Ethiopia’s Ministry of Labour and Social affairs has frozen dozens of work permits issued to North Korean nationals in line with UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions, according to the government’s implementation report submitted to the 1718 Committee.
The report, dated November 28, was recently uploaded by the Committee and covers UNSC resolutions 2371 and 2375, both passed in 2017.
The report was the third submitted by Ethiopia in 2017 and its third in total, despite requirements to file reports in previous years.
“Since the adoption of resolution 2375 (2017), the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has further frozen the issuance of work permits to 40 nationals of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that were in the pipeline,” the report reads.
It also reports that 15 work permits were issued to North Korean citizens prior to May 2017, of which three have now expired.
“In the context of relevant Security Council resolutions, the Ministry has been directed not to renew the work permits of nationals of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea who were working in Ethiopia,” the report said.
“The Ministry has not renewed the work permits of nationals of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the country,” it added.
UNSC Resolution 2375 – passed on September 11, 2017 – decided that member states are prohibited from issuing work permits for North Korean citizens in their territories or jurisdictions.
The decision, however, did not apply to work authorizations for which written contracts were already completed prior to September 11.
December 22 saw the UNSC adopt Resolution 2397, which imposes stricter sanctions on North Korea labor overseas.
Resolution 2397 states that countries are required to repatriate all North Korean nationals earning income in their jurisdictions, as well as “attachés monitoring DPRK workers abroad,” no later than December 22 of 2019.
The resolution implicitly expects that at least 50 percent of the North Korean worker population in foreign countries should be removed by December 22, 2018.
It also states that countries will have to submit a report within 15 months detailing all DPRK nationals earning income in the country that were deported in the 12 month period since the resolutions’ adoption.
Reports will also have to include “an explanation of why less than half of such DPRK nationals were repatriated by the end of that 12 month period if applicable.”
The implementation report also notified the Committee that the Bank of Ethiopia has been directed to reduce the number of bank accounts held by North Korean diplomats as per UNSC sanctions – an aspect it said it was working on in its previous implementation report submitted in July.
It did, however, ask “for further guidance on measures to be taken in relation to the inactive bank accounts.”
North Korea-Ethiopia diplomatic relations date back to the mid-1970s and bilateral ties have traditionally focused heavily on military cooperation – though Addis Ababa has long denied such cooperation continues.
This has involved the training by Pyongyang of local militias and special forces, as well as the supply of munitions, tanks, Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), and artillery.
North Korea has also helped set up two arms factories in Ethiopia, one near Ambo and the other near Debre Zeyit.
It also likely continued to purchase military goods from North Korea into the mid to late 2000s, though Wikileaks cables show that Ethiopia did request information from the U.S. on possible alternative suppliers.
The UN Panel of Experts (PoE) tasked with monitoring DPRK sanctions implementation reported on potential arms-related illicit links between North Korea and Ethiopia in its 2014 and 2015 reports.
Ethiopian Airlines was also involved in transporting a shipment of North Korea arms seized by South African authorities in 2009, which included five tonnes of equipment including tanks and armored engines.
The panel has also investigated the potential involvement of Ethiopia in exporting luxury goods to the DPRK, but was reportedly unable to corroborate reports.
Edited by Oliver Hotham