Nuclear-armed North Korea has long made a fortune from the army of citizens it sends abroad to work, mostly in neighboring China and Russia but also as far afield as Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Two years ago, the UN Security Council ordered the countries where they work to send them back as part of the efforts to press Pyongyang over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, with complete compliance required by this Sunday.
But analysts say Beijing and Moscow are circumventing the measure by issuing North Korean workers with alternative visas to ensure a continued supply of cheap labor.
Longstanding allies of Pyongyang, the two called this week for several sanctions — including the ban — to be eased, with nuclear negotiations between the United States and North Korea at a deadlock.
China was estimated to have 50,000 North Korean workers when the resolution was passed, and witnesses and reports say North Koreans continue to enter the country to work in border-region factories.
At Unban, a North Korean restaurant near Pyongyang’s sprawling embassy in Beijing, a waitress told AFP she had worked there for four years and expected to continue.
“No one has told us that the restaurant will close,” she added. “We had two new colleagues who came last month.”
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said last week that China “earnestly” implements all UN resolutions, but declined to say how many North Koreans were working in the country.
Moscow’s ambassador to Pyongyang Alexander Matsegora said in September that the number working in Russia had already been cut from more than 30,000 to less than 10,000.