WASHINGTON - The United States on Thursday (June 28) designated North Korea as one of the worst human trafficking nations for the 16th consecutive year, citing its use of forced labour, Yonhap news agency reported.
The US State Department's annual "2018 Trafficking in Persons Report" put North Korea in the lowest Tier 3 of its classification of countries, together with China, Russia and Iran.
"The Government of (North Korea) does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so," the report said.
The North Korean government continued to use forced labour in prison camps and labour training centres, facilitated forced labour of students and exported forced labour to foreign companies, it said.
"It used proceeds from state-sponsored forced labour to fund government functions as well as other illicit activity," the report added. "It did not screen for or protect potential trafficking victims when they were forcibly repatriated from China or other countries."
According to Yonhap, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised the issue as he introduced the report.
"We see the tragic examples of forced labour in North Korea as well," he said at a launch ceremony. "Untold number of North Korean citizens are subjected to forced labour overseas by their own government, in many cases with the tacit approval of host governments."
The report comes as Washington and Pyongyang are negotiating the dismantlement of the regime's nuclear weapons programme following a historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore earlier this month.
It noted that in the latest reporting period the UN Security Council passed a resolution banning other countries from issuing new work permits to North Korean workers and requiring the expulsion of current labourers before the end of 2019.
Still, it said as many as 100,000 North Koreans currently earn money for their government in countries such as Russia, China and parts of Africa and Southeast Asia.
Meanwhile, South Korea was placed among Tier 1 countries for the 16th straight year, along with other advanced nations like the US, Britain, France and Canada.