Culture of August 3rd Changing with the Times

Seol Song Ah  |  2014-08-05 18:11

The meaning of August 3rd has changed since the creation of the 8.3 Movement in the 1980s, taking on connotations of areas of previously unavailable liberty, at least in the workplace.

The term '8.3' used to just mean products that were not manufactured in factories,” a source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on August 4th. “Say it now, though, and a lot of people will interpret it as a sign of market influence.”

The 8.3 Movement was a state-led attempt to increase provision of consumer goods by having factories and enterprises source their own inputs, and production facilities produce commodities beyond the remit of central planners. The movement was named after the date Kim Jong Il ordered it, August 3rd, and goods manufactured under its rubric came to be known as “8.3 consumer goods.”

Consumers could not purchase 8.3 consumer goods in subsidised state shops; rather, they were sold directly at market prices. As the movement grew in scale and state-run enterprises pushed to increase productivity, so 8.3 Workers and even 8.3 Work Units were formed.

As factory production slumped in the 1990s, a situation that persisted into the 2000s, workers took to dodging their work duties and mass mobilization orders so as to engage in cottage industries: making their own goods to sell. A portion of their income went back to the state, a de facto tax, and this became known as 8.3 Money.

“As recently as a few years ago, the 8.3 Work Unit in a cement factory in South Pyongan Province would produce roof tiles and slates and sell them to construction firms at market prices,” the source said. “But now, doing private business to make 8.3 Money is getting to be more popular than working in the designated 8.3 Work Unit.”

According to the source, payments of 8.3 Money can be as little as 20,000 KPW per calendar month all the way up to 200,000 KPW, the equivalent of paying for 40kg of rice in a public market.

“8.3 Money sucks up about 5-10% of the earnings of a person working that way,” the source explained. “This means they could be earning up to 2,000,000 KPW per month.” People in this upper earnings bracket do things like trade bicycles or motorcycles, or sell hand-crafted furniture, she said.

Even organs of citizen control and regulation are influenced by 8.3 Money. The Korean Democratic Womens Union [KDWU] is one such example. An organization dealing with family matters, the organization technically demands that all women over 30 be members; however, participation can be waived in exchange for a share of 8.3 Money.

“There are three tiers of 8.3 money contributors, dependent on their financial capabilities,” the source explained. “The ones that have complete freedom and are exempt from all duties pay the most. Then there are some who only participate in monthly studies and others who are only exempt from mobilization.”

This complete freedom comes at a price ranging from 240,000-480,000 KPW per quarter, but is seen as a worthwhile outlay. In effect, 8.3 Money marks out a certain type of class stratification.

“Workers who pay a lot of 8.3 money receive protection from [the Party] despite skipping mandatory self-criticism meetings. Those who don’t pay much have to attend all study sessions and mandatory meetings,” the source said.

“Factories are in competition to get the greatest amount of funds possible from workers, but workers want to move to factories where they have to pay the least 8.3 Money,” he added. 

 
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2017.06.28
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