Category: News

THE ongoing diplomatic spat between Malaysia and North Korea has laid bare the dysfunctional management of our country’s foreign worker policy. The fact is, we have North Korean workers here.

Initially, there were claims that the North Koreans were here on a special arrangement limited to only one mining company. This is not surprising as North Koreans may have the required mining expertise. But the company disclosed that they no longer have them and the last batch was sent back months ago.

So it is shocking that last Wednesday, the Chief Minister disclosed that out of the 176 North Korean workers in Sarawak, 140 of them were found to be overstaying after their work permits expired while 36 had legal work permits. That means 80% of them are illegals!

According to a report in The Guardian on Oct 29, 2015, human rights activists claimed that tens of thousands of North Koreans were sent to work abroad in conditions that amount to forced labour to circumvent United Nations sanctions and earn up to US$2.3bil in foreign currency for the country, as revealed by a UN investigator.

A local newspaper managed to speak to a North Korean worker with a valid pass, who is one of six legal North Koreans working at a construction along the Batu Kawah-Matang Link Road.

According to him, he has been working in Sarawak for the past four years and started working at the construction site two months ago after working in the Kota Samarahan area.

Asked about his salary, he said: “You would not understand and Malaysians and anyone from any country would not understand.”

So there you go, we have North Koreans working not only in mining.

Our foreign worker issue has reached a dysfunctional state. Despite crackdown after crackdown, the problems have worsened. On Labour Day in 2009, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the Government was serious in reducing foreign workers. Within the same week, the Cabinet deferred the decision to increase the levy that was designed to reduce foreign workers.