Conference Slaves to the System: North Korean Forced Labour in the EU

25 juni 2016


Slaves to the System: North Korean Forced Labour in the EU

Academy Building Klein Auditorium

Rapenburg 73, Leiden

6 July 2016, 14.00 – 17.00
LeidenAsiaCentre kindly invites you to attend an afternoon conference on the occasion of the publication of the first research report by the Slaves to the System research group: North Korean Forced Labour in the EU, the Polish Case: How the Supply for a Captive DPRK Workforce Meets Our Demand for Cheap Labour.

In 2014, a 42-year old welder died a horrible death after having lived through 2 years of a slave-like existence as a forced worker. The welder was from North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK). He worked and died in the EU. Researching this tragic death, our research team delved into all kinds of bureaucratic data, concluding that annually 500 North Koreans start working in Poland under forced labour conditions.

With the labour the DPRK regime earns much-needed hard currency; the workers themselves only see a pitiable sum of the money they earn. Along with the labour, the DPRK exports its repressive ideological system, complete with compulsory ideological sessions, worship of the Supreme Leader and harsh sanctions against rule-breakers – and their family left behind in North Korea.

The ‘perfect fit’ between the highly skilled, disciplined and cheap worker from the DPRK and the insatiable and increasing demand from the international market for cheap labour has created a nightmarish reality for those trapped inside it. This after all is legal labour: the workers come certified by the DPRK state and are given EU work permits and visa.

DPRK forced labour in the EU unexpectedly also holds opportunities for redress. The abuses take place on EU soil, so EU laws and international treaties apply. The notion of chain liability allows assigning accountability to all parties involved, including Pyongyang.

The multidisciplinary and international Slaves to the System research group based at Leiden University is committed to mapping DPRK forced labour in the EU, preparing the way for litigation. On 6 July 2016 at Leiden University we will be releasing the final report which will be commented on by a keynote speaker and a panel, followed by a Q&A. The meeting will be concluded with drinks. You are cordially invited to attend.

On behalf of LeidenAsiaCentre,

Remco Breuker

Director LeidenAsiaCentre


If you wish to attend the conference, please register by filling in the form accessible from the following link:

Upon registration you will receive a confirmation with the final details of the conference two weeks in advance. For more information please contact:



Ben jij er ook bij?