Donju in market for domestic workers

Choi Song Min  |  2015-06-16 17:04
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North Koreas new affluent middle-class, known as the donju, is said to be hiring domestic workers for more than 90 times the average wage of laborers in the country. Private hiring by individuals is banned in the North, but donju are getting around the rules by bribing the proper officials, Daily NK has learned. 

Domestic workers are being hired by wealthy families in Pyongyang and other provincial cities, a source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK on Monday. Those filling these roles are filled by "well-kempt" women of a wide array of ages--from some in their teens to others well into their 50s.

Sources in two other provinces reported the same trends, suggesting the practice has diffused nationwide. 

People in the upper class have their whole day planned out, leaving everything else--from preparing meals, cleaning, laundry, to managing small plots- in the hands of these domestic workers, she explained. Because theyre conscious of what others will make of this, they pretend the workers are distant family members or the children of acquaintances, but theyre actually just domestic workers. 

Other duties involved in the job include daily trips to the market, cooking delicious meals that cater to the tastes of the employer's family, washing dishes and laundry, and keeping an overall clean house.  

Most domestic laborers are paid a monthly wage of roughly 200 RMB [280,000 KPW or 35 USD] at set dates--approximately 90 times the remuneration for most factory workers [approximately 3,000 KPW]; thus, it is of little surprise that so many women are trying to brush up their household skills to land one of these positions, the source said.  

Moreover, household laborers can supplement these earnings with tips of 10-20 RMB by performing well outside of their designated work hours, she added. While domestic workers reside with their employers, once or twice a week they are allowed leave to return to their own families, often carting leftover food and unwanted clothes along as additional perks. 

To evade repercussions handed down by the authorities, donju, or "money masters," and their domestic hires pretend to be relatives. When allowing other people to reside in their homes, donju are required to register the workers, usually reported as relatives staying for a fixed period of time due to health issues within the family. For an extra buffer of protection, donju often bribe local safety officials just in case.

Opinions on this burgeoning job market are divided, according to the source, who said that some residents are condoning the practice as a return to a system of serfs and landowners. Many, however, are pleased with the development, pointing out that jobs like these help people get by.  

*The content of this article was broadcast to the North Korean people via Unification Media Group.

*Translated by Jiyeon Lee

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