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North Korean workers in Kuwait engage in illegal brewing, trading of alcohol

Some North Korean workers dispatched to Kuwait have been clandestinely brewing and trading liquor, Radio Free Asia reported Friday.

Quoting a source in the Middle East country, the RFA said that some North Korean laborers were found to be manufacturing a liquor called "sadeeqi" at their apartments in Kuwait.

With a taste similar to the Korean distilled liquor "soju," the illegally brewed spirit contains some 40 percent alcohol.

Made from rice, the liquor is also being traded at a high price on the black market in the Muslim country, where making, selling and drinking alcohol is strictly prohibited by law.

Other media outlets said some 10 North Korean workers in Kuwait per year on average are ordered to leave the country for violating the local law prohibiting the drinking or brewing of alcohol.

Previously, some North Koreans were arrested for bootlegging and distributing illegal liquor after they converted their apartments into a distilleries.

In October 2014 alone, 22 North Korean workers in Kuwait were arrested on bootlegging charges, according to the RFA.

Other media reports said if North Korean workers are discovered selling the liquor to North Korean laborers or other people, they are deported back to North Korea.

According to local sources, the manufacturing cost for a box of sadeeqi (12 bottles) is estimated at $20, but it is sold to regional smugglers for up to $50, making the business quite profitable and hard to root out.

There used to be almost 4,000 North Koreans, mostly construction laborers, in the country, but the number has dropped to 3,200, according to the RFA.

The North dispatches tens of thousands of workers abroad to raise hard currency for its struggling economy, stymied by sanctions and rampant inflation.

The latest reports said North Korean workers are concentrated in the suburbs of the Kuwaiti capital, where they build houses, hospitals and other facilities. They usually stay in military-style barracks. (Yonhap)