North Korean interviewees reported that children and adults were forced to work unpaid through “communal labor” in agriculture or construction. Adults were sometimes forced to work 70 to 100 days in a row and faced punishment or decreased food rations if they disobeyed orders.
Defectors also described labor training camps — essentially state-run prisons — where citizens who were unemployed for more than 15 days were sent to perform hard labor, usually for a minimum of six months.
Even absence from work is not permitted and could result in harsh punishment. “If you are absent without an excuse, you are detained in a labor training camp,” a male defector said, according to the report.
Two defectors spoke of “shock brigades” also known as “storm troopers” — groups of typically very poor men and women who were forced to perform heavy labor, often in construction, for years at a time.
One female defector said her monthly work salary was used to fund forced labor. “I did not receive compensation,” she said. “From my workplace, they were taking money to support shock brigades and as a result of deducting such an amount from our salaries we did not receive any money.”