The US Treasury Department has blacklisted Russian construction company Mokran LLC and North Korean company Korea Cholsan General Trading Corp, which operates in Russia.

The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on two new companies accused of exporting forced labor from North Korea and warned countries to send home any remaining North Korean workers.

The U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement that it has blacklisted Russian construction company Mokran LLC and Korea Cholsan General Trading Corp, a North Korean company operating in Russia.

“North Korea has a long history of exploiting its citizens by sending them to distant lands to work in difficult conditions to financially support Pyongyang and its weapons programs,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.

“The countries that still have North Korean workers have to send those workers home,” he added.

A 2017 UN Security Council resolution called for all countries to send all North Korean workers home by December 22nd last year to prevent them from earning foreign currency for North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The US has estimated that Pyongyang made more than $ 500 a year with nearly 100,000 workers overseas, around 50,000 of them in China and 30,000 in Russia.

Russia’s ambassador to Pyongyang was quoted by Russian media in May as saying Moscow’s efforts to repatriate all North Korean workers within the United Nations deadline had been hampered by the coronavirus outbreak.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters in January that there were about 1,000 North Korean workers left in Russia. She said it was impossible for all workers to leave on time because transportation was limited.

Statistics released in January by the Russian Interior Ministry showed that the number of tourist and student visas issued by Russia to North Koreans has increased over the past year.

Experts suspect that many of the tourist visas issued work illegally in Russia.

The Treasury Department announced on Thursday that a network of Russian companies called Korea Cholsan General Trading Corp had applied for and obtained work permits for North Korean workers to enter and work in Russia.

Mokran LLC also applied for and obtained work permits for North Korean workers to enter and work in Russia, the Treasury Department said.

Moscow and Beijing unsuccessfully pushed for the sanctions against North Korea to be lifted in December.


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