Gulags of Russia – deforestation 22:00, 2009 (Ref: AS09754)


We have rare pictures of North Koreans hard at work, not in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, but in Russia’s Far East, where the North Korean government has created a home away from home for 1,500 of its citizens. They live and work in camps modelled on North Korean villages, complete with their own secret police force, communist slogans and portraits of the North Korean leadership. The pictures show North Koreans deep in the forests, living in rudimentary conditions as they cut down trees to earn their government some $7 million per year. They are reliable workers – a Russian logging official in the area tells us his Korean workers get only three days off per year – one the birthdays of the Koreans leadership. They work to quota or they face punishment. Not surprisingly, many have escaped, and human rights groups say they continue to do so, even after the Russian company working with the Koreans was bought by British investors. In an interview, one escapee recounts the difficulty of living in the camps where workers are often crushed by logs and suffer from the freezing cold. He describes his fear of being deported back to North Korea, where as an “enemy of the people” he could be executed. Human rights groups tell us how workers often are not paid after months of work. But the British businessman who runs the company working with the Koreans in unapologetic, with the logs continuing to be sold on international markets for a high price. These logs, initially exported to China, eventually find their way across the world to markets in the EU and the USA. Our further investigation, delved into the global supply chain of these North Korean produced logs.