(BBC) – North Korean state media has claimed that orphans are volunteering to work in state-run mines and farms.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said hundreds of children “with wisdom and courage in the prime of their youth” have chosen to perform manual labour for the state.
Their ages are unclear but photos suggest they are in their teens.
Human rights groups have long accused North Korea of using forced child labour, something the state denies.
In February, the BBC reported on allegations that generations of South Korean prisoners of war are being used as slave labour in North Korean coal mines to generate money for the regime and its weapons programme.
About 26 million people are thought to live in North Korea, which is ruled by a government with rigid control over all parts of people’s lives.
In April, leader Kim Jong-un warned his country to prepare for tough times ahead in a rare admission of problems. North Korea shut its borders in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, shutting off trade with China – its economic lifeline.