Traditional foreign workers come from Vietnam, Philippines and Myanmar in China. The image of foreign worker’s market is dramatically changed in 2012. North Korea made a rare move to export their labor force with the expectation of earning foreign exchange into Chinese market. It is called a rare move because there is restriction of exporting workforce to overseas for avoiding the intellectual outflows in the policy of North Korea. The estimation of ‘120,000 North Korea workers will be allowed to work in China under Industrial Training Visas before the start of 2013’ (Sun Weicheng 2012).


These North Korea foreign workers were dispatched to border cities such as Tumen, Dandong initially and then to major cities in Northern provinces of China and gradually to Southern China. Some report mentioned those workers are semi-skilled with working experiences even with IT background. The report from China’s richest village, Huaxi in Wuxi City of Jiangsu Province, presented there were around ‘30 North Korea women working as waitresses in the five-star Longxi International Hotel in early 2012’ ( 2012).


Most of North Korea workers work in restaurant, hotel, manufacturing, construction, and other industries as waiter/waitress, technicians, mechanics, construction workers, miners, and so on. Based on various industries, the workers’ wages are different. For example, ‘North Korea waitress in Huaxi luxurious hotel may get USD 780 (RMB 5,000) monthly’ ( 2012) that is much higher than “normal North Korea workers’ monthly salary between USD 200 and USD 300 in China’ (Sun Weicheng 2012). The sad thing is ‘60% of workers’ earnings might go directly to the North Korea government’ ( 2012). Though the monthly salary of North Koreaworkers may lower than the local Chinese workers in the same industry, yet the job is taken as a privilege because the monthly salary in North Korea is even under USD 10. The selection of workers to China is quite meticulous which means several requirements must be met, such as the ‘loyalty to the North Korea government, be married’ (Tencent 2012), and so on. To avoid running away, most of North Korea workers are tightly controlled and managed when they work in China. They normally live in two point one line, namely dormitories and working places. North Korea workers are ‘obedient, efficient and cheap’ (Sun Weicheng 2012) which are commented by many Chinese employers. They just follow the order without compliant and work very hard.


North Korea foreign workers may meet the Chinese demand for keeping costs down and requiring cheap labors. As early post presented ‘One Child Policy is aggravating the shortage of labor sooner or later in China’ , North Korea workers might be one of solutions to fill some low-end jobs in China.

Reference List: 2012, North Korea Waitress in Huaxi, [online]. Available at URL: [Accessed 3 Aug 2012].

Sun Weicheng 2012, China Economic Weekly Journal: North Korea workers do not communicate with Chinese workers in China, [online]. Available at URL: [Accessed 3 Aug 2012].

Tencent 2012, 120000 North Korea’s foreign workers come to China, [online]. Available at URL: [Accessed 3 Aug 2012].