7 Terrible Labor Projects Of Dictatorships & Third World Hell Holes


Today is Labor Day! It is federal holiday in the United States celebrated the first Monday of every September since it was created in 1894. It was originally promoted by the Central Labor Union as a way for all workers to celebrate their contributions to “the strength, prosperity and wellbeing” that make America great! USA! USA!

It is worth remembering and being thankful that if you live in America, labor and your contributions are appreciated.  American workers chose to have the gumption and self determination to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and contribute to the greater good.  And not because they had a gun to their head and their careers were chosen for them, either. Sadly however this isn’t true all over the world. In some third world hell holes, dictatorships and crumbling communist empires the means of production are controlled by the state to devastating results. Here are some insane large scale labor projects whose laborers wish they had a Labor Day to BBQ on. 

Qatar 2022 World Cup Construction Has Caused 1200 Deaths

In addition to allegations of vast corruption and bribery between Qatar and FIFA (the international organization that rules professional soccer) in order to secure the tournament, the treatment of foreign workers has become a large focus of the 2022 World Cup.  Some reports are estimating that as many as 1200 deaths can be attributed to conditions at construction projects related to the stadium and other real-estate being built in Qatar for the games. To add insult to injury, these people died building a giant vagina. Just look at that thing! A monarchy, under the rule of the Al Thani family, flogging is still used as a form of punishment in Qatar. If citizens are caught drinking alcohol or partaking in “illicit sexual relations” they get corporal punishment. Adultery gets you 100 lashes; which could be all worth it if you are into that sort of thing.

The Massive North Korean Ryugyong Hotel Has Been Under Construction For 30 Years

For a reclusive, poor country under constant economic sanctions due to human rights violations, the construction of a massive, 105 story spaceship looking hotel was a no brainer. Constantly wanting to impress the rest of the world with brash, bold and sometimes outlandish displays of “power” North Korea’s communist dictatorship began construction of the Ryugyong Hotel in 1987. The huge, pyramid shaped building towers over the capitol city of Pyongyang and at the time would have been the tallest hotel in the world. It was supposed to coincide with the 13th World Festival of Youth And Students. Fun! That date was missed and when “the hermit kingdom” ran out of money construction was stopped in 1992. While the outer shell was complete, the interior of 105 floors was empty and bare. This husk of a building was left standing unfinished until 2008 when they decided to give it another go. This time they promised to have construction completed by by 2012, but don’t go on Kayak just yet looking to book a room. Construction was again halted in 2013 and the hotel has still never officially been open. No reason was ever officially given but most guess that with the political tensions between Kim Jong-Un and the rest of the world, there is not a lot of need for a giant hotel for tourists in the middle of North Korea, unless they are going to host Dennis Rodman and his entourage a few times a year.

The Karakoram Highway In Pakistan

It is estimated that during its construction between 1959 and 1978 as many as 1,300 workers were killed attempting to complete the road. The highway is 905 miles long and what makes it so dangerous is that it goes through some of the most unstable, highly elevated mountains on the planet. At some points it is 15,520 feet above sea level.  This makes the roadway easily susceptible to avalanches and landslides, especially when massive amounts of dirt and earth are being moved about.  However the government pushed the project as it connected Abbottabad, Pakistan with Kashgar, China. Does Abbottabad, Pakistan sound familiar to you? Abbottabad is where Osama Bin laden was hiding in his compound all those years when all of a sudden- knock-knock- whose there? Seal Team 6 is at the door with swift delivery of JUSTICE. One more dead along the Karakoram Highway.

500 Workers Died Building The Aswan Dam In Egypt

Taking a decade to build, from 1960 to 1970 Egypt constructed the massive Aswan Dam.  The dam was built in an effort to control the natural flooding that occurs around the Nile River. The dam would help farmers control the water to improve crop production while also generating much needed electricity for the growing and industrializing population. However as a consequence 500 people died during construction and an estimated 100,000 people were RELOCATED by the government for the project. In addition a lot of priceless Egyptian archeological sites were lost in the process. Luckily the Soviet Union agreed to help with equipment and finances which led to better safety measures at the time for people working on the massive project.  

Soviet Gulag Forced Labor And 12K Deaths For White Sea- Baltic Sea Canal

A group of people who definitely neve celebrated Labor Day were the poor folks in a Soviet GULAG. These notorious labor camps were used in large part to construct the White Sea-Baltic Sea Canal between 1931 and 1933.   Under the direction of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin the canal was built using mostly FORCED manual labor. This consisted of 100,000 convicts working on the project. Due to the poor working conditions about twelve thousand of those forced gulag laborers died. Because of Stalin’s insistence on creating a symbol of Soviet power and industrialization he pushed hard on the building of the canal which squeezed time, money and equipment thus causing construction and safety issues. Ironically his zeal to have the massive canal connecting the White and Baltic Seas at a distance of 141 miles, built quickly and cheaply makes the canal an inadequate shipping route for many modern, large cargo ships and it is not heavily trafficked today.

“The Railway of Death” AKA The Burma Siam Railway Where 106K People Died

Built during World War II in 1943 by Japan as a way to send troops to the front lines for their Burma campaign, this legendary terrible construction project saw the deaths of as many as 106,000 forced laborers. This huge figure included over 12,000 American and Allied prisoners of war. The railway was only open from 1943 until 1947 and was 258 miles long.  The brutal working conditions and treatment of Allied POW’s and other prisoners who forcibly worked on the railroad were considered a war crime at the end of the war. 111 Japanese military personnel were put on trial, with 33 being put to death for their involvement of the Burma Railway construction.

Chinese Contraction Project Accidently Puts Apartment Building In Middle Of Highway

OK, compared to war crimes and forced gulag labor this one is NOT that bad. However with China pushing forward on loads of urban development projects and planning, there are bound to be some funny mistakes. Thankfully nobody died in this incident, but a few apartment dwellers have sort of a terrifying view. The government moved out residents of a section of Xi’an, Shaanzi province to make room for a public park.  In exchange they would be promised placement in a brand new block of apartments. The only problem was that when they built the nice new apartment buildings for the people who lived where the park is going, they accidently placed one of the buildings right in the path of a EIGHT lane highway.

So people cruising down the highway get funneled into a four lane highway that curves around the apartment building. Originally the city planners asked if the people who they had just relocated into the new apartments would mind moving AGAIN while they fixed the building. They said NO! So the new building just hangs out there like that last Lego brick that won’t fit together the way it does in the picture on the box.  

Follow Phil Haney on Twitter @PhilHaney



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