• Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg should show proof that the North Korean workers who were and are still in Sarawak are specialist workers

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 10th of March, 2017

    Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg should show proof that the North Korean workers who were and are still in Sarawak are specialist workers

    On the 8th of March, 2017, Chief Minister of Sarawak, Datuk Amar Johari Tun Openg was reported to have said that the North Koreans who are working in Sarawak are “mostly specialist workers in coal mining, bridge and hydroelectric dam projects”. [1] I received a parliamentary reply on the 17th of June, 2015 to my question on the number of North Korean workers who was then working in Malaysia. The reply stated that all of the North Korean workers in Malaysia were working in the construction and mining industries (See Figure 1 below)

    Figure 1: Parliamentary Reply received on the 17th of June, 2015

    I visited the Selantik coal mine in the Sri Aman district on the 25th of September, 2015. I did not speak to the North Korean coal miners because of concerns of safety and the language barrier. I did see that the living conditions of these workers were very basic. I also saw a woman who looked Korean coming out from one of the run-down accommodations at the mine to wash some plates. My guess at that time was that she was a cook for the North Korean workers. (See Pictures below)

    I also asked the villagers living near the coal mine and they all said that they had very little interaction with the workers there. I find it hard to believe that ‘specialist’ coal miners from North Korea would be willing to live in such basic and inhospitable living conditions which I saw at the mine. There is also nothing from my parliamentary reply to indicate that these coal miners were ‘specialist’ workers.

    Chief Minister Amar Johari can convince the public that these were indeed specialist workers by releasing information about the background, qualifications and work experience of these specialist workers as well as proof that the company employing them had advertised for these positions and were unable to fill them with Sarawakian workers.

    At a time when relations between Malaysia and North Korea is at an all-time low and with the global media’s attention focused on Malaysia because of the recent assassination of Kim Jong Nam, it is imperative that we demonstrate to the global community that proper operating procedures were followed in the employment of the North Koreans in Sarawak. Failure to do so would put Malaysia in a negative light and may even cause the downgrade in Malaysia’s position in the US state department’s Trafficking in Persons (TiP) report.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    Picture 1: Coal Mining operations in Selantik, Sri Aman in Sarawak

    Picture 2: One of the accommodation housing the North Korean workers in Selantik, Sri Aman in Sarawak

    Picture 3: One of the accommodation housing the North Korean workers in Selantik, Sri Aman in Sarawak

    Picture 4: One of the accommodation housing the North Korean workers in Selantik, Sri Aman in Sarawak

    Picture 5: A Korean looking woman coming out of one of the accommodation at the Selantik coal mine in Sri Aman to wash some dishes

    [1] http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/03/08/north-koreans-in-no-rush-to-go-home/#4grlAk1YbeqsO6oV.99