The government of Singapore has canceled all work permits previously issued to North Korean citizens in the country, according to its latest implementation report to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) committee on sanctions against the DPRK.
Resolution 2397, adopted unanimously in December last year, expressed concern that North Koreans continue to work overseas in order to generate foreign currency “that the DPRK uses to support its prohibited nuclear and ballistic missile programs.”
In response, the resolution mandated that member states repatriate all North Korean workers in their jurisdictions no later than two years from the adoption of the resolution on December 22, 2019.
Singapore appears to have pre-empted the deadline and gone one step further in its implementation of the resolution.
“Singapore has revoked the work passes of all nationals of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea earning income in Singapore and will not grant new work passes to nationals of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” the report – dated March 19 – reads.
“There are therefore no nationals of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with work passes in Singapore,” it added.
While there are no agreed-upon official figures for the number of North Koreans working overseas, it is widely estimated to be in the tens of thousands.
At the time of the passage of Resolution 2397, the Associated Press, however, quoted an unnamed U.S. official saying that Washington estimates there to be some 93,000 DPRK workers active abroad.
Previous UNSC resolutions also targeted the trade, with Resolution 2371 previously deciding that the total number of work authorizations provided by states for North Korean nationals in their territories shall not exceed the number already allocated by countries as of August 5, 2017 – the date of the adoption of the resolution.
While the DPRK and Singapore established ties in the mid-1970s and have previously enjoyed relatively good relations, the expansion of the sanctions regime against the DPRK in recent years has seen the South East Asian country enact several measures that not only enforce the multilateral measures, but go beyond them.
This included amendments to an established visa-free agreement with the DPRK last year, in order to better monitor North Korean nationals entering the country.
Singapore also announced in November last year that it was suspending commercial trade with North Korea, a provision also mentioned in its latest implementation report.
“Singapore has imposed a prohibition on the import, export, re-export, transit and trans-shipment of all goods for the purposes of trade with any person in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” it said.
Despite such measures, however, North Korea’s ongoing illicit activities in apparent cooperation with Singaporean entities remain a matter of concern and the subject of several inquiries by a UN Panel of Experts (PoE) tasked with monitoring DPRK sanctions enforcement.
Current inquiries pertain to Singaporean and Singapore-based entities with ties to DPRK financial institutions, procurement networks, prohibited ship-to-ship transfers, and the prohibited trade in luxury goods.
This includes the involvement of a Singaporean company OCN and its export-focused subsidiary T Specialist in moving luxury goods to Pyongyang and its involvement in running high-end department stores in the city.
The OCN case was first revealed in a long-running NK Pro investigation published in July last year.
While Singapore announced in March that it was investigating the case, there was no further information provided in its latest implementation report.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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Featured Image: Aerial of Singapore by dronepicr on 2017-07-21 13:32:06