The North Korean authorities are putting pressure on citizens to assist in New Year state projects, starting at the beginning of the year with calls to “collect one ton of manure,” and then progressing to encompass the gathering of scrap metal.
A source from North Hamkyung Province told Daily NK about the situation on the 20th, explaining, “The authorities started harassing us with the manure collection project on the morning of New Year’s Day, and now they are pushing us to collect scrap metal.”
“They are looking for 10kg of scrap from everybody,” he added, going on, “People’s unit leaders are going from home to home emphasizing the need to give scrap metal. There are folks bitterly complaining that they’ll even have to give up their rice pots.”
“There is anger at the number of [non-tax payments] being forced upon people these days,” the source went on. “They say it’s like their ‘pockets are the nation’s safe.’ People wonder whether the country could ever survive without their money.”
The collection requirement is being imposed on members of every people’s unit, school, factory enterprise and political organization (General Federation of Chosun Trade Unions, Kim Il Sung Youth League, Chosun Children’s Union, etc.). The authorities are calling the projects ‘New Year projects’ and ‘patriotic movements;’ in other words, people know they are being politically judged according to their participation. This makes it important for families to avoid failure if at all possible.
Naturally, such economically distorting projects have serious negative effects; one of the more notable of these is that it exacerbates thievery of infrastructure resources from the state.
The source explained, “Cadres from factory enterprises end up going to scrap metal merchants to try and find stuff from their factories that disappears and ends up there, and the two sides end up fighting over it.”
Factories cannot operate at all in the absence of parts, and few spare parts tend to be forthcoming from the state, so cadres have little choice but to try and hold on to their current infrastructure.