2018-03-12 14:11:09 UTC
POLICE, Poland — At an isolated shipyard on Poland’s Baltic coast, men
in coveralls used welding torches under a cold drizzle, forging an oil
tanker for a customer in the Netherlands. The scene was unremarkable,
save for the provenance of a dozen of the workers.
“Yes, we are from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” one of
them said. “We have been here quite a while.” Then he hurried away,
alarm seizing his face.
Four other welders confirmed that they were also from North Korea, the
pariah state threatening the United States and much of East Asia with
nuclear weapons. They, too, then scampered off.
For decades, North Korea has dispatched laborers to points around the
globe, engaging tens of thousands in logging, mining and construction
ventures while taking a hefty slice of their earnings. The United States
has sought to shut down this enterprise, lobbying other countries to
eject the workers and eliminate a source of hard currency for the North
But the continued presence of these workers in Poland — a NATO ally at
the heart of the European Union — underscores how difficult it is to
fully sever North Korea from the global economy, even as the nation
accelerates efforts to build a nuclear missile capable of striking the
Continue reading the main story
Security Council Tightens Economic Vise on North Korea, Blocking
Fuel, Ships and Workers DEC. 22, 2017
South Korea Seizes Ship Suspected of Sending Oil to North Korea
DEC. 29, 2017
North Korea Won’t Stop Its Arms Tests Anytime Soon, South Korea
Warns DEC. 26, 2017
Rocket Men: The Team Building North Korea’s Nuclear Missile DEC.
Continue reading the main story
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 2017, and 253 the
Men approaching a dormitory used by North Korean workers at the Partner
shipyard in Poland. Credit Andrew Testa for The New York Times
Washington has intensified pressure on countries to stop hosting North
Korean laborers, and the list of countries doing so has dropped to
perhaps 16, including Austria and several Persian Gulf states, from
about 40, according to human rights groups and United Nations reports.
The Polish government has repeatedly pledged to phase out work permits
for North Koreans after negative attention in academic papers and news
But the European Union has not pressed the issue, fearful of ratcheting
up tensions over sovereignty issues after Britain’s vote to exit the
bloc. Poland’s right-wing government has bristled at European criticism
of its moves to exercise greater control of the courts.
“The E.U. has been afraid of driving Poland further away,” said Remco
Breuker, a historian and Korea expert at Leiden University in the
In a warren of streets near the Oder River in Police, a dreary town of
40,000, North Korean workers are often seen walking near train tracks
from the Partner shipyard to a grocery store.
Sometimes they squat on the sidewalks in front of their dormitory,
smoking cigarettes while braced against a biting wind. In the evenings,
they trudge to buy pastries or vegetables. On Sundays, they congregate
at a local elementary school for soccer games.
“It’s something very unusual,” said Pawel Wieczorkowski, deputy director
of the local unemployment office. “It’s exotic.”
The workers appear intent on maintaining a low profile. With few
exceptions, North Korea’s totalitarian government forbids citizens from
mixing with outsiders. Those who fall under suspicion can face arrest.
“We are here legally. We pay taxes to the local government,” a North
Korean worker said after being approached outside the dormitory. Asked
about reports that workers have been mistreated, he snapped, “They are
all lies!” Then he got in a van and drove away, down a muddy alley.
North Koreans working elsewhere in Poland also keep to themselves.
At the greenhouse complex that employs North Koreans, the workers’
dormitory was surrounded by a seven-foot-high concrete wall. But through
a crack, a heavyset man in a thick parka could be seen directing six
women to wash a blue Ford van in the winter chill.
In Koldowo, a speck of a village some 200 miles northwest of Warsaw,
residents said a group of North Koreans arrived in early 2017 for jobs
at Remprodex, a manufacturer of shipping containers in the nearby town
During their first months, they slept inside empty containers despite
the cold, residents said. Later, the workers rented half of a house
tucked inside a walled compound.
Remprodex did not respond to questions, and Times reporters were turned
away at the estate of the Kociszewscy family, which owns the greenhouses.
The countries hosting North Korean workers have defended the
arrangements, arguing that they expose the laborers to the outside world
and help them support their families. Conditions back home can be so
desperate that some North Koreans pay bribes to get these jobs.
But human rights organizations, North Korean defectors and United
Nations monitors have described the assignments as forced labor because
the workers are physically confined, under constant surveillance and
deprived of most of their wages.
As many as 147,000 North Koreans now work abroad, according to a recent
estimate by the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, and
the ruling Workers’ Party in Pyongyang is said to seize anywhere from 30
to 80 percent of each laborer’s earnings.
A man outside a North Korean workers’ dormitory. Credit Andrew Testa for
The New York Times
That amounts to a significant revenue source for a regime increasingly
pinched by international sanctions — between $200 million and $500
million annually, according to most experts.
The call that would put her in business with North Korea came around
2007, Cecylia Kowalska recalled.
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At the time, she ran a company in the port city of Gdansk that supplied
electrical and welding services to the shipping and construction industries.
A shipyard in Gdansk needed someone to manage 10 North Korean welders
who had worked there in the past, she said. They had been employed
through another firm that had struggled to pay them on time.
Ms. Kowalska, now 67, said her company, Armex, assumed responsibility
for the workers, and then established a relationship with the North
Korean partners who had brought them to Poland.
She later began supplying North Korean welders to two other shipyards,
run by Crist S.A. and Nauta S.A., both companies that make war vessels
for NATO members.
“They were skilled and hard-working,” she said of the North Koreans.
Ms. Kowalska also served as the legal representative of a company called
Wonye that was established to supply workers to factories, shipyards,
and fruit and vegetable wholesalers, according to Polish corporate records.
The records identify Wonye’s president as a North Korean named Jo Chol-yong.
In the mid-1990s, a man of the same name and birth date worked for a
North Korean company controlled by the ruling party department that
oversees the nation’s nuclear and missile programs, according to a
registry of Pyongyang residents smuggled out of North Korea.
Wonye’s vice president is listed as Kang Hong-gu, who appears to have
previously served as commander of a unit involved in construction, the
8th Sokdojon Brigade, according to the Pyongyang registry.
Ms. Kowalska said she helped establish Wonye in 2015 as a favor to one
of her North Korean partners but never took an active role and sold her
shares the next year.
According to research by Mr. Breuker and his colleagues, Armex received
its workers from the Rungrado General Trading Corporation, a North
Korean supplier of overseas workers sanctioned by the United States in
2016 and accused of funding the department that oversees the nuclear
Asked about her partners, Ms. Kowalska said she was uncertain of their
names and promised to look them up. But she later declined to identify
them, saying that doing so would divulge “trade secrets.”
Once, she recalled, one of the North Koreans suggested she buy a gift
for officials in Pyongyang — a sword. “A sign of our thanks for this
partnership,” she said. “I thought it was like buying someone flowers.”
The sword was later displayed in a hall for gifts to North Korea’s
leaders and highlighted in a North Korean propaganda video that
identified Armex by name.
Ms. Kowalska said the partnership proceeded smoothly until three years
ago, when a North Korean welder without adequate safety gear burned to
death at the Crist shipyard. The accident alarmed Crist’s customers,
among them a Danish shipbuilder that had employed the Polish shipyard to
handle work on a war vessel for Denmark, another NATO member.
Soon afterward, Ms. Kowalska said, she stopped hiring North Korean
workers “because it became such a sensitive issue.” She added that she
was now retired and no longer managed North Korean workers.
The shipyard in Police. The Polish government says that hundreds of
North Koreans work in the country. Credit Andrew Testa for The New York
But her North Korean partners still appear to be active in Poland.
On a recent afternoon, Times reporters spotted two vehicles with Polish
license plates parked outside the workers’ dormitory at the tomato
greenhouses: the van that was being washed and a dark Mercedes sedan.
According to records seen by The Times, the van is registered to Wonye’s
vice president, Mr. Kang, and the Mercedes to its president, Mr. Jo.
A Parallel Reality
Though the European Union maintains extensive labor protections, North
Koreans who have worked there describe a parallel reality.
“Our girls lived as if they were in prison,” said Kim Tae-san, a North
Korean defector who worked in the Czech Republic from 2000 to 2002
supervising 200 young North Korean women in a shoe factory.
He said the women were forced to remain during off-hours in their
dormitory, where they attended ideological study sessions and could
watch only movies and propaganda documentaries sent from home.
Once a week, he added, they were allowed out to go to the market — but
only in groups.
North Koreans sent to work overseas are vetted for political loyalty,
but the government also sends minders to watch them. Mr. Kim said the
workers also “monitored each other.”
The women worked six days a week, earning $150 a month but keeping only
about $25 for food and savings. Their supervisors took the rest, Mr. Kim
said, spending some of the money on housing but sending most of it back
to the authorities in North Korea.
Poles who have worked with North Koreans describe similar conditions. A
shipyard worker at Crist, for example, recalled how a North Korean
colleague fell ill on the job and was urged by a paramedic to stop
working. Instead, the man became frantic, insisting he had to continue.
“This is slave labor,” said Agnes Jongerius, a Dutch member of the
European Parliament, who has urged European authorities to force Poland
to stop admitting North Korean workers.
Ms. Kowalska scoffed at allegations of abuse and said the North Koreans
she managed enjoyed “a normal life.”
“They asked us for advice on what to buy their wives and kids,” she
said. “They liked to buy lingerie for their wives. It was a popular
gift, and they would ask us about inexpensive shops.”
She said her company paid the workers about $780 per month. She
acknowledged at first that Armex sent a portion of their wages to a
North Korean company, but later said she had misspoken and no one took a
As international scrutiny has intensified, the State Labor Inspectorate
has vowed to investigate claims of abuse. So far, the agency has found
“no signs of forced labor,” said Dorota Gorajska, an official
responsible for companies that employ foreign workers.
Officials acknowledged, however, that inspections have generally been
confined to paperwork and that when interviews are conducted,
investigators typically rely on translators provided by employers.
Given North Korea’s reputation, does that not taint their findings? An
official at the inspectorate, Michal Tyczynski, took a deep breath.
“It’s a tricky question,” he said. “There is no good answer to this
Correction: January 1, 2018
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article
misstated the year when Poland’s provincial governments gave at least
124 new work permits to North Koreans. It was 2017, not 2007.
General Skalski o zydach w UB :
"Rozanski, Zyd, kanalia najgorszego gatunku, razem z Brystigerowa,
Fejginami, to wszystko (...) nie byli ludzie."
prof. PAN Krzysztof Jasiewicz o zydach :
"Zydow gubi brak umiaru we wszystkim i przekonanie, ze sa narodem
wybranym. Czuja sie oni upowaznieni do interpretowania wszystkiego,
takze doktryny katolickiej. Cokolwiek bysmy zrobili, i tak bedzie
poddane ich krytyce - za malo, ze zle, ze zbyt malo ofiarnie. W moim
najglebszym przekonaniu szkoda czasu na dialog z Zydami, bo on do
niczego nie prowadzi... Ludzi, ktorzy uzywają slow 'antysemita',
'antysemicki', nalezy traktowac jak ludzi niegodnych debaty, ktorzy
usiluja niszczyc innych, gdy brakuje argumentow merytorycznych. To oni
tworza mowe nienawisci".