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Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Sunday Racist Horror

The Moscow Times reported December 12th:

A group of young men wielding pipes and sticks attacked a group of North Korean laborers in the Moscow region, leaving four of the migrant workers hospitalized, authorities said Tuesday.
The attackers, all in their early 20s, ransacked the building where the North Koreans live at around 8:30 p.m. Sunday in the town of Volokolamsk, 130 kilometers northwest of Moscow, said Pyotr Ustimenko, deputy head of the Volokolamsk administration. There were around 20 attackers, and 17 of the 39 North Koreans in the camp at the time were treated for injuries, Ustimenko said. Four were hospitalized. Four suspects were detained in the attack, said Ustimenko, adding that the assault was not a hate crime. "This was a routine fight," he said. "There was no extremism involved here." Police have classified the incident as an act of mass hooliganism, he said. A Moscow region police spokeswoman referred all questions to police in Volokolamsk. Repeated calls to the police went unanswered Tuesday. Ustimenko said the North Koreans were doing construction for a residential building, and he stressed that they were working legally in the country. "They are all registered legally," he said. Komsomolskaya Pravda identified the North Koreans' employer as EnergoEngineering 2000, a Moscow construction company. A woman who answered the phone at the company Tuesday said no one was available to comment.

The number of North Korean migrant workers in Russia has risen steadily in recent years, with more than 21,700 legally working in 2006, RIA-Novosti reported earlier this year. Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Krivtsov said Russia and North Korea signed an agreement this fall aimed in part at ensuring the rights of labor migrants. But the use of North Korean labor in Russia has a history of disturbing parallels with slavery. State and regional officials told The Moscow Times in 2001 that some 10,000 North Koreans were working in Russia under the supervision of their country's security forces and without legal protection. An Economic Development and Trade Ministry official interviewed at the time said Pyongyang was continuing a Soviet-era practice of servicing its debt to Russia by sending indentured servants to work for free in lumber camps across Siberia. The official, who asked not to be identified, said North Korea serviced some $50 million of its $3.8 billion debt this way in 2000. The situation appears to have improved somewhat for the workers since then. A senior immigration official in the Far East city of Tynda said in 2003 that while North Korea's Labor Security Service still had a representative in every settlement, its agents no longer search for escapees, leaving that task to the Russians. North Koreans no longer burst into tears and beg not to be turned over to their employer when they are caught skipping work, the official said. Calls to the North Korean Embassy in Moscow went unanswered Tuesday.

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