Employing child labor? KCNA: Orphans volunteered to work on state farms and pits

North Korea’s state-run media KCNA claims that orphans in the country have volunteered to work in state-run mines and farms, saying “hundreds of children are working for the country in their youth, with wisdom and courage.

The BBC reports that it is not clear how old the children actually are, but the photos suggest that they must all be in their teens.

Many reports in North Korean camp media last week said volunteers were volunteering to work across the country. KCNA reported on the 27th that “dozens of orphans rushed to the coal mining area in Kawnee County, Gangwon Province, to fulfill their promise to repay one millionth of the Party’s love for them. KCNA reported on the 29th that 700 orphans volunteered to work in domestic factories, farms and forests.

Human rights groups have long denounced North Korea’s forced labor of children, but the North denies it. The U.S. State Department’s “Human Rights Report” last year charged that North Korea is practicing the “worst forms of child labor,” using children to shovel snow on major roads or to help meet production goals under the guise of helping with special projects. The report noted that 16- and 17-year-olds participate in “10-year militarized youth construction teams” and suffer from “physical and mental injury, malnutrition, exhaustion and developmental defects” as a result of forced labor.