Upcoming Project: Slaves to the System; The Global Dimension

In 2017 the LeidenAsiaCentre will start with a new project. This is the follow-up project to the Slaves to the System project: Research DPRK Forced Labour in the EU. The international reactions to the research report have been very positive and encourage further research. The upcoming project, Slaves to the Sytem; The Global Dimension, builds on the research results from the first project, as well as on the goodwill created through extensive media exposure.

Background

This is the follow-up project to the Slaves to the System project: Research DPRK Forced Labour in the EU. The international reactions to the research report have been very positive and encourage further research. Academically, large swaths of research terrain remain untouched. Politically and socially, the questions raised in the EU parliament on account of our report clearly signal a social need for further research (and dissemination of the results) as does the reception the report received from international NGOs and other (legal) institutions.

Follow-up research

The present project builds on the research results from the first project (as well as on the goodwill created through extensive media exposure) by focusing on the following research topics:

1. Quantitative and qualitative indexing of DPRK forced labour in the EU (to the extent that the previous project has not done; expansion of the research to ILO member states.

2. Legal elaboration of the research, which ties in with the needs of (international) policy making with regard to forced labour and contemporary forms of slavery. Further research on the legal position (labour law and human rights perspective) of DPRK workers abroad and the (im)possibilities of enforcing their rights. Determining whether DPRK forced labour practices in the EU constitute human trafficking and the state liability within this angle.

3. Gathering of empirical data related to DPRK forced overseas labour for use in the composition of the Global Slavery Index.

Method

In the first stage of the project, the research team worked on gathering data (working permits, chamber of commerce files, financial reports, labour inspections reports, etc.), on conducting interviews, doing fieldwork, analysing data and putting it in the right framework. Because of the likely risks that would involve interviewing DPRK workers in order to obtain information, the project team chose to not be dependent on these kinds of interviews, but to mostly rely on testimonies from workers who had already fled the DPRK and on the data contained in Polish labour inspection reports and the like. Furthermore, the – often publically available – data on visa, working permits, financial constructions and employment mechanisms made such an approach not only possible, but also viable. In the gathering of data, Poland – unlike most other EU Member States – turned out to be the country that most helpfully offered data on visa and working permits, information on companies involved, and labour inspection reports. As far as it was possible to determine, it is also the EU Member State hosting the most DPRK workers, but further research is needed to possess all the facts. However, either way, the exploitative conditions under which DPRK workers have to work are not a Polish problem – this is an EU-wide problem. Indeed, it is a global issue. Therefore the same quantitative and qualitative indexing of DPRK forced labour in the EU (to the extent that the previous project has not done this) will continue in the follow up research. The same methodology will be used for research on ILO member states.

Project team

The specific characteristics of the research have made it necessary to tackle this issue by combining forces with specialists on the DPRK, on (EU and international) labour law and on human rights. The composition of a multidisciplinary research team in the first stage has made it possible to highlight and to understand issues from different angles. Specific knowledge on different fields of (academic and other) specialization has proven to be particularly instructive in the in-depth analyses, while it also allowed the researchers to get a broader perspective on the issues involved. The multidisciplinary character of the research will continue in the follow up research, according to the demands of the content of the follow up research. The core research group consists of:

– P.I. & research (North Korea) Remco Breuker,
– UL Project coordinator & reseach (legal) van Gardingen, FNV (Labour   migration)
– Researcher (legal) prof. Klara Boonstra,
– VU Researcher (North Korea) Kim Kwang-chol,
– Dongguk University Advisor (North-Korea), Jang Jin-Sung (New Focus)

Related

More information about the project can be found here.

FINAL FINDINGS SLAVES TO THE SYSTEM-PDF