Construction companies in Russia employ laborers of North Korea on a large scale. They work on projects to build apartment blocks and have to remit a major portion of their earnings back home. These workers are forced to live in miserable conditions and the money they send back to their homeland is believed to be a major source of finance for the regime of Kim Jong-un. It goes to fund his missile programs.

CNN reports that according to UN estimates, the money adds up to a sizeable figure, close to $500 million a year. US diplomats believe the regime takes nearly 80% of their earnings.

Effect of sanctions on Pyongyang

The UN Security Council had slapped several rounds of sanctions on North Korea and the latest one from December 2017 pertains to its workers who are employed abroad. They have to return home by December 2019 which will mean choking finances for the regime. The exact number of workers in Russia is not known and it will be difficult to ascertain whether all of them will come back.

The sanctions were imposed after Kim Jong-un tested another missile on November 29, 2017. It reached a height which brought the entire US mainland within its range. Russia had backed the resolution and it should ensure that the workers return back.

Incidentally, North Korea labeled these sanctions an "act of war" at that time but tensions in the region have subsequently lessened.

Talks have resumed between Pyongyang and Seoul after two years without any. It is a favorable sign. The bonding agent appears to be the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Will peace return to the region?

In the opinion of Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea, the credit for easing tensions should go to US President Donald Trump because his diplomatic pressure has paid dividends.

It has created a proper environment for talks. However, North Korea does not agree. In its opinion, the thaw came because of improved inter-Korean relations that began with the olive branch extended by Kim on New Year’s Day.

The United States has agreed to put the military drills, with its ally South Korea, on hold because of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

However, what will happen after the games are over is anybody’s guess. It is a known fact that the sanctions have hurt the missile programs of Kim Jong-un, and in the event that Russia sends back the North Korean laborers, it would exacerbate problems for Pyongyang. It remains to be seen whether Kim will declare a truce and agree to resolve the long-standing issues through peaceful means.