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Denmark Builds Warship Using N Korean Forced Labor

Sputnik News

12:36 26.09.2017(updated 15:51 26.09.2017)

After it was revealed that construction of Denmark's new warship, the Lauge Koch, was built using North Korean forced labor, suspicions were raised that Danish taxpayer funds may have ended up in Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs.

Barely a week after Denmark condemned North Korea for its continued nuclear tests in a meeting with North Korean ambassador to the Nordic country, a documentary by Danish Radio has revealed that Copenhagen may have indirectly financed Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

In the documentary "The Warship's Secret" aired today, on September 26, Denmark's state-of-the-art warship the Lauge Koch was reported to have been built in Poland using North Korean forced labor workers. The accusations were substantiated by contracts, receipts and eye witnesses.

The Lauge Koch, which has cost the Danish state over 500 million DKK ($80 million) and will be unveiled in December, was partially outsourced by the Danish ship builder Karstsensens Skibsværft to Crist, Poland, which was found to have hired a Polish subcontractor that used North Korean workers employed via the company Rungrado. North Korea's state-owned Rungrado is now hit by sanctions for alleged trafficking in missile technology.

So far, it is unclear how many Danish tax kronor have ended up in North Korea. However, according to UN figures, Pyongyang earns up to $2 billion through its foreign workers, fueling its need for hard currency due to heavy sanctions. Since Kim Jong-un's rise to power, the number of North Korean workers abroad has risen and is now estimated at around 100,000.

"North Korean workers abroad are an important source of hard currency, used for developing the North Korean nuclear and missile programs," Jai-chul Choi, South Korea's ambassador to Denmark, said in the DR documentary. "If Danish taxpayer funds were to be used for the nuclear and missile programs, it would be catastrophic," he added.

Several Danish parties, including the Social Democrats, the Red-Green Alliance and the Social Liberal Party, demanded an explanation from Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen.

"We need to get to the bottom of this, especially to prevent it from ever happening again in the future," Social Democrats defense spokesman Henrik Dam Kristensen told Danish Radio, calling the incident "grotesque."

Red-Green Alliance foreign spokesman Nikolaj Villumsen called this "unacceptable" and ventured that it is completely incomprehensible how it could have happened at all.

"This is an embarrassing case for the Polish authorities, but it is also an embarrassing case for the Danish Defense," Social Liberal Party foreign spokesman Martin Lidegaard said.

The Armed Forces and Karstsensens Skibsværft initially denied any North Koreans having been involved in the construction of the Lauge Koch. However, Brigadier General Anders Mærkedahl of the Defense Materiel and Purchasing Board admitted that it was not possible to completely rule out their participation. In the documentary, a number of Polish shipyard workers confirmed that the North Koreans had worked as welders on the Danish ship.

"It would be completely outrageous if it were really true that North Korean forced labor has been used in an EU country like Poland. But I find it hard to see what we could possibly do to investigate the allegations about the construction of the Lauge Koch now, several years after the ship has been completed," Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen wrote in an e-mail to Danish Radio.

According to the documentary, the North Korean foreign workers live under slave-like conditions, being deprived of their passports and free movement, living under constant surveillance and working up to 20 hours a day. Of their wages, they are only allowed to retain a small amount, if anything at all. Several NGOs have previously described the North Koreans as "modern slaves."

"For years, Pyongyang has exploited North Korean workers in Poland with the blessings of the political authorities in Warsaw, who have generously granted working visas while turning a blind eye to the inhumane conditions that these modern slaves suffer from," Willy Fautré, the director of Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF) claimed earlier this year in Parliament Magazine.


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