North Korea's government is reportedly earning billions by forcing tens of thousands of its citizens to work abroad under slave-like conditions, the United Nations has said.
Marzuki Darusman, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, said at a news conference on Wednesday that Kim Jong Un's regime is forcing more and more people to go work abroad to countries like Russia and China.
"I think it reflects the really tight financial and economic situation in the North," Darusman said, according to CNN.
Darusman previously estimated that as many as 50,000 workers are being shipped off by North Korea and are forced to labor 20-hour work days, while being given inadequate food and a minimal monthly paycheck of only $120 to $150, The Associated Press noted. Many of the workers also toil under dangerous conditions in the mining, construction and logging industries.
The U.N. estimates that this forced labor brings in as much as $1.2 billion to $2.3 billion a year for Kim's government, which is under heavy U.N. sanctions.
Darusman has called for the matter to be brought up at the International Criminal Court, but Russia and China, who are two of the five permanent U.N. Security Council members, would be expected to veto such a move.
The human rights expert warned that companies hiring the North Korean workers "become complicit in an unacceptable system of forced labor."
"They should report any abuses to the local authorities, which have the obligation to investigate thoroughly, and end such partnership," he added.
Beside human slavery, the North Korean government has also been accused by the U.N. and human rights groups around the world of carrying out extreme persecution against religious minorities, including Christians.
Christian persecution watchdog group Open Doors has continuously ranked North Korea as the very worst country in the world for followers of Christ, with believers revealing that persecution is only getting worse, despite the government's claim to the contrary.
Kim's government representatives, such as Alejandro Cao, special delegate of North Korea's committee for cultural relations with foreign countries, have argued that there is no Christian persecution taking place in the country.
But a CBS News report from earlier this year shared the story of one survivor who escaped Kim's government, and revealed that as children they were taught to believe there was no God.
"Growing up, I was told by the authorities that there was no God in this world," the survivor recalled. "We were ordered instead to worship Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, the leaders of the country."
As many as 100,000 Christians are estimated to be held captive at the labor camps around the country, with many reportedly tortured and even executed for their faith.