Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Q&A: Greg Scarlatoiu of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea

Q&A: Greg Scarlatoiu of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea

Q&A: Greg Scarlatoiu of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea

Greg Scarlatoiu is the executive director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea

Question: Can you describe the kind of conditions North Korean overseas workers live in?
Answer: It really depends on the site managers, some of them look after the workers, and some of them don’t. Individual waitresses can’t keep their tips. Kind-hearted managers may allow that within reason, but only while assuming great risks themselves. The women live together, work together and commute together, usually in a vehicle provided by the North Korean authorities. They sometimes go shopping, but always in a group, and never alone. If it becomes apparent that a customer is getting too close to one of the women, she is removed from that situation or simply sent home.

When workers are sent back to North Korea after making a mistake, how would they be treated?
They would most likely be sent to a reeducation camp (kyohwa-so), or worse, to a political prison camp (kwanli-so). I have only spoken with North Korean defectors [who had worked] overseas and they knew about such people.

If a worker defects, would their families be sent to the gulag?
There used to be no exceptions. But nowadays, there may be some, depending on the seniority of the respective worker. The higher the rank, the more likely it would be that the family would end up in the gulag.

Why is three years the maximum time North Korean restaurant workers can spend overseas?
Most of them are daughters of the elite. By spending more than three years overseas, they would become too accustomed to an ‘alien’ way of life. Families want them to come back and get married.

Read the story of how a North Korean waitress escaped from her job in one of the regime's restaurants, in Siem Reap, after falling in love with a South Korean man.

MOST VIEWED

  • PM responds to Rainsy ticket claims

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday expressed frustration over claims by Sam Rainsy that he had altered Rainsy’s ticket with Thai Airways to prevent him boarding his November 7 flight to Thailand, from where he had claimed he would enter Cambodia. Hun Sen made the

  • Phnom Penh International Airport wins award as passenger traffic soars

    The Phnom Penh International Airport has been awarded Best Asia Pacific Regional Airport 2019 for its sustained high growth in passenger traffic in recent years. The award was presented by the Capa Centre for Aviation (Capa) – a world-leading and trusted organisation that provides market intelligence to

  • PM urges ‘democracies’ to learn from horrors Cambodia faced

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday chided countries that he said declared themselves a democracy while supporting a military coup that eventually gave birth to the Khmer Rouge regime. Speaking during the 2nd Asia-Pacific Summit at the Peace Palace, Hun Sen said without naming those

  • Princess Buppha Devi passes away aged 77

    Princess Norodom Buppha Devi, who was famous for her skills and key roles behind the Kingdom’s Royal Ballet, passed away on Monday from unspecified illness at a hospital in the Thai capital Bangkok, according to the official Facebook page of King Norodom Sihamoni. “May

  • PM: Request for release of plotters not due to pressure

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday said his request to have the supporters of former opposition leader Sam Rainsy and his “coup plot” released on bail was not made under international pressure. Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of 34 roads in Preah Sihanouk

  • Ministry deplores RFA report on EBA

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on Friday deplored as fake news a Radio Free Asia (RFA) report that it had received a copy of the European Commission’s assessment on the human rights situation in Cambodia as part of the Everything But