North Korea: Labour Migration from a Closed State

  • John Connell University of Sydney


Most East and Southeast Asian countries have made a transition from being sources of labour migrants to recipients of migrants. North Korea has largely remained outside this structure until recent decades when economic downturns have led to its emergence as a growing source of labour migrants. Much of that migration is clandestine and tightly controlled. Most labour migrants have gone to adjoining Russia and China but workers have also gone to Gulf countries, Europe, Africa and elsewhere in Asia. Labour migrants are predominantly male, work in construction and endure state sanctioned exploitative wages, hours and conditions. Remittances have returned to the state rather than to households. North Korea has opened up, engaging in limited globalisation in other areas, including tourism and industrial zones, but none of this trilogy has resulted in significant changes to the economic or political structure.


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Author Biography

John Connell, University of Sydney
Professor, School of Geosciences


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