VOA's Korean Service broadcast Jeon's report, "My Nation's Command, My Only Dream: The Story of North Korean Migrant Workers," as a three-part series in August 2009.<!-- IMAGE -->
From July 11 to July 16, 2009, Jeon met with dozens of the estimated 5,000 North Korean migrant workers who perform hard labor in the Russian city. Several of them agreed to let her record interviews on the condition that she use pseudonyms in her report. This coverage provided rare insight into the hardships that they face in order to earn a higher income than expected in North Korea. Many work more than 10 hours a day because the North Korean government takes a large percentage of their salaries.
Kim Chul-woong (pseudonym) told Jeon that "I will go back to Pyongyang when I make a lot of money. You can have a wealthy life in Pyongyang if you have money." Another migrant worker told her that "Here I can pocket as much as $1,000 a month." Despite the long hours and the separation from their families, many North Koreans from all walks of life agree to spend five years or more to earn higher salaries so they can have a better life when they return home.
Jeon is a veteran broadcaster who has covered North Korean affairs for more than 15 years. Her trip to Vladivostok took six months of planning to establish contacts on the ground. North Korean government officials keep a close watch on North Koreans working abroad, so making contacts in Vladivostok under this kind of scrutiny was extremely difficult.
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