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North Korea sends workers overseas and confiscates their salaries, which could expose European companies to legal action over forced labour, researchers said on Tuesday.

In interviews with North Korean workers in Europe, the Leiden Asia Centre found that they must hand over their passports to North Korean government officials, are denied freedom of movement and are forced to work long hours with no overtime pay.

Most of their earnings are taken by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), said the Dutch research institution, adding that companies which have signed international treaties could be hit with legal action for involvement in forced labour.