North Korean Workers
Russia began doing its bit to fulfill sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council in December by deporting North Korean workers. In this photo, North Korean workers at a construction site in Mongolia’s capital Ulaanbaatar, Oct. 6, 2017. Getty Images/ BYAMBASUREN BYAMBA-OCHIR

Russia began doing its bit to fulfill sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council in December by deporting North Korean workers, Russia’s ambassador to North Korea, Alexander Matsegora, confirmed Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters in New York, Matsegora said: “The ban on workers from North Korea will affect Russian economy, but we respect and fully implement the UN Security Council's decisions. Many governors have started to deport Koreans in order to report early implementation [of the resolution].”

Matsegora added that despite the fact that the recent move will “deal a blow to the Russian economy, a serious blow, especially to the Far East,” it demonstrated Moscow’s commitment to implement the U.N. Security Council’s decisions, Russian news agency TASS reported.

On Dec. 22, 2017, the U.N. voted in favor of a resolution — drafted by the United States — to impose tougher sanctions on North Korea, in light of the nuclear threat its leader Kim Jong Un posed to the world by refusing to cease the rogue country's ballistic missile testing.

Apart from cutting North Korea’s crude oil imports by almost 90 percent — bringing it down to an allowance of only 500,000 barrels per year — the resolution also called for the expulsion of all North Korean immigrant workers who have been granted work permits in countries around the world within the next 24 months.

Sectors like housing construction, agriculture, and the fishing industry in Russia hired an estimated 35,000 employees from North Korea in the past. About 15,000 visas are issued annually to North Korean nationals, among which 90 percent are short term working visas, Sputnik News reported.

Matsegora rubbished the news that North Korean workers are forced to work in slavish conditions in his country. He said North Korean immigrants are paid the same as Russian workers on average.

In fact, North Korean workers earn enough to feed "13 members of his family," Matsegora added. Due to their ample wages, they are able to send half of their total earnings back home.

Russia, however, will only be sending back workers who want to go back to North Korea and won't be forcing their will. "We don’t return anyone to North Korea by force. We have never did," Matsegora said.

Matsegora arrived in New York to take part in a U.N. Security Council committee meeting on sanctions against Pyongyang. During his visit, he met with officials from the two Koreas, including Pyongyang’s U.N. envoy Ja Song Nam.

He said his aim for the visit was to deliver the idea that "the sanctions have run its course and cannot be expanded any further." He noted that sanctions "have huge negative impact on humanitarian situation," in the country. Matsegora contended that it was time to negotiate.

"The conditions are very good now, with positive attitude, the Olympic Games, the Olympic ceasefire and no [military] exercises," he said, adding that no other alternatives were offered by anyone else. "We call on them: 'dear friends, let’s begin!'"