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While Watching FIFA, Remember the North Koreans

While Watching FIFA, Remember the North Koreans

There are two issues on the world agenda these days, one is, of course, US President Donald Trump’s agreement with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

The other one is the FIFA World Cup in Russia. These two topics actually are somehow related to each other in a weird way.

Being a member of the “rebel” club is hard. Countries that are not a part of the “normal” world, based on Western values, usually have an attitude of defying the Western values -including democracy. They tend to create their own set of political values and regimes, and they claim  it to be “better” than democracy.

You could, actually, very well define Russia as such, but one other, and more obvious, example of it is North Korea: a country which has its own version of communism in existence for about half a century. Will Kim’s new deal with Trump, open up the country, and lead to a change in the system from within is yet to be seen. However, not being a part of the civilized world has cost a lot for North Korea. The country is very very poor and very very isolated.

So, how does North Korea get involved in FIFA games? Well, turns out, the stadiums built for FIFA World Cup in Russia were constructed by North Korean workers.

Norwegian football magazine Josimar, and British newspaper Guardian have been covering this topic.

According to reports, 110 North Korean workers took part in the construction of the stadium in St. Petersburg. Workers have been under surveillance 24/7, with no days off. They have been working literally day and night. One of the workers died in the construction site when he fell off.

One of the workers told a reporter interviewing him that he was working  in Russia to improve North Korea’s defense. Probably, the workers were brainwashed with epic stories in order to withstand this misery. Workers received around 300 dollars per month, and sent two thirds of their salary back to their government.

There were other North Korean slave workers working in other World Cup construction sites in Moscow and Yekaterinburg.  Although we don’t have their exact numbers, they area assumed to number somewhere around 3,500.

Qatar is the next country in line for this type of cheap labor. Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup. It is estimated that 2,800 workers from North Korea are going to be working in the construction*.

*New Eastern Europe, January February No 1; Long Live Kim Jong Un: how Russia helps the dictator Thrive

About The Author

Nevsin Mengu

Born in Ankara in 1982. Studied Political Science at University of Bilkent. Did her masters on Sociology at University of Galatasaray. Worked at several news outlets like Haberturk and Hurriyet. Mostly covered Middle East as a correspondent. From 2009 to 2010, worked for TRT TURK in Tehran. From 2011 until 2017, anchored CNNTURK 18 o’clock news. Now writing opinion pieces for Birgün newspaper and doing weekly interviews for Deutsche Welle.

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